top of page


The following are some datasets that are used in this portal or are otherwise useful for examining disaster recovery policy.

The CDC/ASTDR Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)

Social Vulnerability refers to the ability, or lack thereof, for communities to respond to and recover from natural disasters. The Social Vulnerability Index quantifies this vulnerability at both the census tract and county level, using 16 data points from the U.S. Census divided into four broad categories:

Theme: Socioeconomic Status

  • Percentage of Households Below 150% of the Poverty Line

  • Unemployment Rate

  • Percentage of Households that are Housing Cost Burdened (defined as paying more than 30% of household income on housing)

  • Percentage of Adults over the Age of 25 Without a High School Diploma

  • Percentage of the Population with No Health Insurance


Theme: Household Characteristics

  • Percentage 65 & Older

  • Percentage 17 & Younger

  • Percentage of Single Parent Households

  • Percentage with a Disability

  • Percentage with Low English Proficiency


Theme: Racial and Ethnic Minority Status

  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race)

  • Black and African American (not Hispanic or Latino)

  • American Indian and Alaska Native (not Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian (not Hispanic or Latino)

  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (not Hispanic or Latino)

  • Two or More Races (not Hispanic or Latino)

  • Other Races (not Hispanic or Latino)

Theme: Housing Type and Transportation

  • Multi-Unit Structures

  • Mobile Homes

  • Occupied Housing Units with more than 1 Person per Room

  • Occupied Housing Units with no Vehicles Available

  • Group Quarters, such as dormitories, psychiatric institutions, and long-term care facilities

The CDC SVI can be used to answer these types of questions:

  • Where are the most vulnerable populations in a region affected by disaster?

  • What communities need to be prioritized for disaster recovery efforts and mitigation funding?

  • How does the vulnerability of historically disinvested communities compare to wealthier neighborhoods in the
    same city?


The SVI is updated as data becomes available from the American Community Survey. The dashboards use 2020 data
at the Census tract level.


While there are other indices of Social Vulnerability, most notably the University of South Carolina's Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI), we use the CDC's SVI because the underlying data is publicly available.

FEMA Individuals and Households Program - Valid Registrations

This dataset is maintained by OpenFEMA and contains a record for every application for Individual Assistance going back to 2002. It currently comprises one row for each application for individual assistance received by FEMA in the last 20 years. As of June 2023, it has roughly 20.7 million rows, including roughly 1.3 million for Hurricane Fiona and 900,000 for Hurricane Ian. Each record contains the following, among other items:


  • Location: State, city, county, and ZIP code.

  • Household Characteristics: Age of the applicant, household size, household income, whether the dwellers rented or owned the house, residence type

  • FEMA Verified Loss: Damage to real property or personal property (these metrics are less reliable due to inconsistencies in how FEMA inspectors determine losses)

  • Application Eligibility and Assistance: Whether the household was approved for assistance; what kind of assistance was approved (e.g. Housing Assistance, Other Needs Assistance, and/or Critical Needs Assistance); how much money the household received; and reasons a household was found ineligible for assistance.


The FEMA IHP dataset is updated weekly after a disaster as new applications are submitted and processed.


The FEMA IHP Dataset can be used to answer questions like:

  • How many applications were submitted in a given area? Is there a mismatch between the level of damage on-the-ground organizations are seeing and how many applications are being submitted?

  • What percentage of applications were submitted by low-income households or by renters?

  • What percentage of applications are being approved? How does that compare between high-income and low-income households?

  • Are applications being improperly rejected for Proof of Ownership reasons.


The Storm Impact dashboards incorporate IHP data for the Storm Impact Tab, the Two-Variable Tab, and the Equity Tab. IHP data will be discussed in greater length in a forthcoming report.


FEMA has historically not collected data on the race, ethnicity, or gender of applicants. As of 2023, the agency has begun collecting this information on a voluntary basis, but it has not made that data publicly available.


Note: The IHP dataset is very large and cannot be used without advanced software like Stata. If you or your organization would like IHP data for a specific disaster, please contact us.

Census Data

The U.S. Census keeps data from both the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey. The Census is conducted every 10 years and includes data on the absolute numbers of people and housing units in a community. The American Community Survey is a continuous survey of randomly selected Americans on a broad range of data points, such as income, race/ethnicity, housing status, and dozens of others. Data can be obtained for states, counties, cities, census tracts, and census block groups. American Community Survey data is the basis for the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. It is updated annually.


The Census can be used to answer questions, including:

  • What is the median income in a city, county, or neighborhood?

  • What percentage of a city, county, or neighborhood is non-Hispanic white?

How many households are in a given community? Combined with FEMA IHP data, what percentage of households submitted an application for assistance?

National Risk Index

The National Risk Index was created by FEMA to combine communities’ vulnerability to disasters with the likelihood that a disaster will strike. The National Risk Index includes the following data for both counties and census tracts:

  • Data from the Social Vulnerability Index

  • “Annual probable loss” of property damage and lives due to disasters

  • Community resilience, defined as “the ability of a community to prepare for anticipated natural hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.”


The National Risk Index can be used to answer questions like:

  • What parts of the country have the most exposure to natural disasters? What types of disasters are most likely?

  • What are the most and least resilient counties in the country?

The Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) and the National Low Income Housing Corporation (NLIHC) used the National Risk Index in their report Taking Stock: Natural Hazards and Federally Assisted Housing to quantify how many federally assisted housing units were at risk from natural disasters.

bottom of page