The Effects of Disaster Damage and Housing Aid on Household Recovery Following the 1976 Guatemalan Earthquake

March 1987 (VOL. 5, NO. 1)

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This paper examines the effects of housing programs, disaster damage, community type, and other social determinants on household recovery following a major natural disaster--the 1976 Guatemalan earthquake. The domestic assets index, a measure of household living conditions, and a refined measure of household recovery are introduced and employed. The domestic assets scale is an index of the economic value of household equipment and is an adaptation of level of living scales. While reconstruction aid was the single most important determinant of recovery, it was the type and not the value of aid that was critical. Strong support exists for the conclusion that temporary housing as a form of aid retarded the recovery process while permanent housing programs actually produced net improvement in living conditions. There is also evidence that the unequal effects of different types of housing programs produced significant changes in the distribution of economic resources, thus effecting the stratification system in affected communities. In addition, while other factors associated with the social characteristics of household were found to be important, this analysis consistently suggests that households residing in small, rural, and politically removed communities experienced greater difficulty in overcoming the debilitating effects of a natural disaster.