The Role of Social Capital in Resiliency: Disaster Recovery in Puerto Rico

Anais Delilah Roque, David Pijawka, Amber Wutich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The disasters that occurred during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season not only became an economic burden for federal and local governments but also for those who had their houses damaged and lived without electricity, water, and related necessities 1 year after. In the case of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, ineffective oversight of the large-scale humanitarian crisis also contributed to long-term delays in recovery efforts. This paper explores how barrios (small legal divisions) can use social capital to recover and potentially increase resilience before after a disaster. By looking at two rural barrios in Puerto Rico, the study presents how the communities' actions pre-and-post-Hurricane María assisted the residents in coping and reducing vulnerability. The study conducted semi-structured interviews with community leaders to assess the communities' capacities in their organizations, emergency management, collaborations, and ongoing efforts to mitigate future shocks. A thematic analysis for each site described three key dimensions of social capital (bonding, bridging, and linking) that these communities leveraged to enhance resiliency. Findings show that social capital facilitated recovery efforts and enhanced resiliency through shared values, network expansion, new partnerships, and a desire to make their communities more robust and less vulnerable to upcoming environmental disturbances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-235
Number of pages32
JournalRisk, Hazards and Crisis in Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • disaster recovery
  • emergency management and response
  • social vulnerability and vulnerable populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration


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