Neighborhood structure, social capital, and community resilience: Longitudinal evidence from the 2011 Brisbane flood disaster

Rebecca Wickes, Renee Zahnow, Melanie Taylor, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Whether a community can demonstrate resilience following a disaster largely depends on the pre-disaster context. Community disadvantage, the concentration of vulnerable and ethnically diverse groups, and high levels of residential mobility in the pre-disaster environment make it difficult for communities to "bounce back" following a disaster. The lack of social capital in the pre-disaster context also hinders community resilience. Yet there is scant research that assesses the extent to which pre-disaster structural conditions and the availability of local social capital influence community resilience post-disaster. Methods: We use administrative and longitudinal survey data from over 4,000 residents living in 148 urban communities in an Australian capital city (Brisbane). The survey data were collected before a major flooding event in 2011 and again 15 months post-disaster to examine the influence of prior levels of social capital on community resilience. Our indicator of community resilience is an index of perceived community problems before and after disaster. Results: Community problems were significantly lower in flooded communities when compared with nonflooded communities. Although higher levels of social capital were associated with lower community problems post-flood, the effect of social capital on these problems did not differ in flooded and nonflooded areas. However, the concentration of vulnerable groups did lead to greater problems in flooded communities post-disaster. Conclusion: Although social capital may reduce local community problems under normal conditions, it may have a limited effect on reducing community problems in a post-disaster environment. In contrast, the structural conditions of a neighborhood before flood have lasting and negative effects on community problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-353
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Cite this