Overrepresentation of Historically Underserved and Socially Vulnerable Communities Behind Levees in the United States
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Overrepresentation of Historically Underserved and Socially Vulnerable Communities Behind Levees in the United States

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  • Journal Title:
    Earth's Future
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    Infrastructure equity is an immediate concern with levees, constituting the backbone of the U.S. protection against flooding. Flooding patterns are exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change in several regions, posing a significant risk to the economy, safety, and well‐being of the nation. The evolving risk of flooding is shown to disproportionately affect historically underserved and socially vulnerable communities (HUSVCs). Here we compare the sociodemographic and socioeconomic composition of leveed and non‐leveed U.S. communities and show a substantial overrepresentation of HUSVCs in leveed areas at the state, regional, and national levels. Further, we analyze the proportion of communities designated as “disadvantaged” in leveed versus non‐leveed areas, revealing a substantially larger population of disadvantaged communities residing behind levees. Our analyses show that nationally, Hispanic are the most overrepresented population in leveed areas yielding a disparity percentage of 39.9%, followed by Native American (18.7%), Asian (17.7%), and Black (16.1%) communities. Communities characterized by low education, poverty, and disability exhibit a disproportionately higher presentation of 27.8%, 20.4%, and 5.4% in leveed areas across the U.S. In 43 states, disadvantaged communities are overrepresented behind levees, with a national disparity percentage of 40.6%. At the regional level, the highest disparity was observed in the Northeast (57.3%), followed by the West (51.3%), Southeast (38%), Midwest (29.2%), and Southwest (25%). The findings can enable decision‐ and policy‐makers to identify hotspots within HUSVCs that need to be prioritized for enhancing the integrity and climate adaptation of their levee systems.
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    Earth's Future, 11(9)
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    CC BY-NC
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