Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA)

Louisiana 2017 Coastal Master Plan: Coastal Louisiana Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)

Completed 2017

The Challenge

The Water Institute of the Gulf actively supported the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana (CPRA) in bringing the best research and science together to develop the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. The master plan, unanimously adopted by the Louisiana legislature in 2017, builds upon the 2007 and 2012 planning efforts and advances a comprehensive, integrated approach to prioritize projects and investments to make Louisiana’s coast and coastal communities more resilient and sustainable. As part this work, the Water Institute developed a Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to support an evaluation of how communities with different levels of vulnerability may be affected by projects or alternatives.

The Approach

This research examined the underlying socioeconomic, institutional, political, and cultural factors that determine how people within coastal Louisiana respond to a wide range of existing or hypothetical hazards events. The approach identified, at the census block group level, the presence and location of socially vulnerable groups and used both disaggregated and combined indicators to assess social vulnerability. Development of the coastal Louisiana SVI began with the selection of socioeconomic variables identified in the literature and derived primarily from the 2010 Census and the 2009-2013 American Community Survey (ACS). These variables were synthesized using Principal Components Analysis (PCA) to identify significant components representative of broad categories of social and economic vulnerability. The components were then combined into a single index to assess relative social vulnerability for populated census block groups across the coast. The SVI of each census block group was then classified by standard deviation and mapped to identify locations ranging from high to low vulnerability.

The resultant index enabled an assessment of the relative vulnerability of communities and was used to further interpret the findings of other Master Plan metrics. Using the SVI, each Master Plan metric could be summarized by community according to the level of community vulnerability and then compared across the vulnerability categories to evaluate whether there are disproportionally lower (or higher) scores in vulnerable communities.