New Publication: Power of social relations: The dynamics of social capital and household economic recovery post Wenchuan earthquake

By Tianyi Xiang, Eric Welch, Bo Lui

Abstract: Research on the role of social capital in disaster recovery shows mixed results. Recent studies have attempted to resolve the conflicting findings by focusing on how different forms of social capital contribute to recovery outcomes. However, these studies have generally ignored the temporal effects of social capital on disaster recovery. This study extends work in this area by examining how social capital influences household-level disaster recovery at different points in time. We specifically examine how a Chinese rural household's pre- and post-disaster social capital, captured by core connections and authority relations, are related to its middle- and long-term economic recovery after 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Three years of survey data (2009, 2012, 2018) reveal a dynamic link between social capital and household economic recovery. Household pre-disaster core connections are beneficial at the mid-term, but not for the long-term economic recovery. Core connections established post-disaster contribute to household economic recovery over time. The findings imply that pre- and post-disaster social capital shape household economic recovery in different manners. A household's ability to strategically develop social connections after disasters is essential to its disaster recovery. Full article.