Patterns of Social Support

Seungyoon Lee photo

Seungyoon Lee, Steps to Leaps Research Collaborative member.

Social support is a critical aspect of resilience in adapting to both large- and small-scale disruptions. How does social support of different types and from different sources explain people’s long-term recovery from natural disasters? This study utilizes survey data from 544 households in three counties of New Jersey that were impacted by Superstorm Sandy. We asked about their progression of recovery as well as the social support they received at multiple time points from three different sources – institutional sources, informal sources and online sources. We also distinguished between three main dimensions of support – material support, emotional support and information support.

Utilizing hierarchical clustering methods, we identify several typologies of how social support fluctuated over time. These patterns of support were influenced by conditions such as income, age, years lived in the community and distance from the coast. Further, the support trajectories were differentially associated with recovery trajectories and the reported timing of return and rebuilding. In brief, households that reported receiving material and informational support from institutional sources and emotional support from informal sources showed a quicker recovery trajectory, while controlling for disaster impact and vulnerability factors. This study serves as an example of how networks of different forms can be mobilized for resilience and well-being after adverse events. While initial housing damage has an impact, post-event factors including received support can significantly shape recovery outcomes. In practice, cooperative relations cultivated in communities in the pre-disaster phase may serve as channels of support to fill the gap in institutional relief efforts. In addition, as these informal networks comprised of close-knit and bonding ties were relatively lacking among older, lower-income, and newer residents of the community, efforts to help these populations mobilize social ties are important.


Lee, S., Siebeneck, L., Benedict, B., Yabe, T., Jarvis, C., & Ukkusuri, S. (2022). Patterns of social support and trajectories of household recovery after Superstorm Sandy: Contrasting influences of bonding and bridging social capital. Natural Hazards Review, 23(2), 04022002.