Why Women Are More Likely Than Men to Die in Natural Disasters

   •    October 12, 2017

Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey have devastated Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean as well as the southern United States in recent weeks. But none will be the great social leveler that catastrophic storms are often thought to be. If international experience is a guide, this extreme weather will cause greater suffering for women than for men. And the genders will take different approaches to recovery.

As the United States seeks to help those at home and abroad, it should learn from past trends and anticipate these uneven outcomes so it can develop a more effective response. According to a 2008 study drawn from 141 countries over 21 years, more women die during environmental disasters than men. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed four times as many women as men. In some cases, women had stayed behind to search for children and relatives. In others, women had never learned to swim.

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