Capabilities-based approach to measuring the societal impacts of natural and man-made hazards in risk analysis

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This paper presents a capabilities-based approach to identifying and quantifying the expected overall societal impact of natural hazards in engineering risk analysis. Drawing on the work in development economics and policy by philosopher Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998, the societal impact is defined in terms of the impact on selected individual capabilities, the functionings individuals are able, still able, or unable to achieve in the aftermath of a hazard. Individual capabilities capture the net societal impact of hazards, which includes likely benefits and opportunities in addition to losses. A general methodology is discussed for practically implementing the proposed approach to quantifying the expected societal impact, modeled on the framework currently used by the United Nations to assess the level of development of societies around the world. This proposed capabilities-based approach can be used with different methods or techniques for risk and decision analysis and when assessing risk for diverse types of hazards that range from minor to catastrophic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalNatural Hazards Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Hazards
  • Natural disasters
  • Public safety
  • Risk management
  • Social factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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