Social vulnerability across the great lakes basin: A county-level comparative and spatial analysis

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Social vulnerability refers to how social positions affect the ability to access resources during a disaster or disturbance, but there is limited empirical examination of its spatial patterns in the Great Lakes Basin (GLB) region of North America. In this study, we map four themes of social vulnerability for the GLB by using the Center for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index (CDC SVI) for every county in the basin and compare mean scores for each sub-basin to assess inter-basin differences. Additionally, we map LISA results to identify clusters of high and low social vulnerability along with the outliers across the region. Results show the spatial patterns depend on the social vulnerability theme selected, with some overlapping clusters of high vulnerability existing in Northern and Central Michigan, and clusters of low vulnerability in Eastern Wisconsin along with outliers across the basins. Differences in these patterns also indicate the existence of an urban–rural dimension to the variance in social vulnerabilities measured in this study. Understanding regional patterns of social vulnerability help identify the most vulnerable people, and this paper presents a framework for policymakers and researchers to address the unique social vulnerabilities across heterogeneous regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7274
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, grant number 1940128.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cluster outlier analysis
  • Great Lakes Basin
  • LISA
  • Social vulnerability
  • Spatial inequality


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