Measuring natural disasters through self-report: the case of a national child cohort study

Measuring natural disasters through self-report: the case of a national child cohort study
Author/editor: Edwards, B, Gray, M & Borja, JB.
Year published: 2019
Issue no.: 3


Children are considered to be disproportionately affected by natural disasters related to climate change. The impacts on the development of children of being exposed to multiple natural disasters are not well understood. This paper reports on the development and validation of a cumulative measure of exposure to natural disasters (2013–17) at the area level, as well as an individual-level measure of the impact of these natural disasters using data from the Longitudinal Cohort Study on the Filipino Child and linked data from the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT). First, we show that a caregiver-reported measure of cumulative exposure to natural disasters had statistically significant associations with disasters reported by officials responsible for the geographic area and with disasters in EM-DAT. A substantial proportion of the variation in individual reports of exposure to natural disasters occurred at the area level (25%), supporting the idea that taking community averages reflects a consensus of the exposure to natural disasters.

We then generated a community average measure of exposure to natural disasters, based on neighbours ‘reports but not individual self-reports – therefore providing an exogenous measure of disaster exposure in the local area for each household.  Second, we show that this community measure was more strongly related to EM-DAT and barangay (small administrative unit) official reports than individual household reports. Third, many household factors (e.g. quality of housing) will mitigate the impact of a natural disaster. Even though exposure to a natural disaster may be a shared experience, we develop an individual-level measure of disaster impacts. Importantly, this measure of disaster impact was associated with measures of exposure (individual and community average), community ratings by officials and EM-DAT. However, the impact measure was only moderately associated with the community average exposure. Both the community average and disaster impacts measures were consistently related to household income and the adequacy of income in households. We discuss the implications of our study for more nuanced measures of disaster exposure and monitoring.

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