The Effects of Personal Network and Local Community Contexts on the Receipt of Formal Aid during Disaster Recovery

March 1996 (VOL. 14, NO. 1)

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Studies of the response of individuals to disasters have relied primarily upon individual factors for explanation. Using data collected in telephone interviews with 594 residents of southwestern Louisiana, we examine the effects of local community and personal network contexts, as well as individual factors on individuals’ use of aid from formal organizations. We find that our measures of personal network context significantly affect five of our seven measures of the utilization of formal aid, and that network form affects these outcomes more consistently than network composition does. These effects are generally consistent with our predictions. We also find significant effects of our measure of local community context, the level of owner-occupancy has a positive effect on three of our measures of formal aid. Based upon these findings we conclude that contextual factors exert important effects on individuals’ use of formal aid. We suggest that studies of the provision of aid to individuals by organizations should be supplemented with more detailed studies of the effects of personal network and local community contexts on individual’ receipt of specific sources of aid from formal organizations.