VULNERABILITY TO POWER OUTAGE EVENTS BY RACE, ETHNICITY, POVERTY, AND ENVIRONMENT
Darras, Brice Daniel
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This dissertation investigates power outage frequency patterns for relationships with race, ethnicity, poverty, and factors in the natural and built environments. While engineers have previously studied the impact of environmental factors, we know less about how frequently power loss impacts racially and socioeconomically diverse populations. Sociological studies predict that inequality in service provision may covary with sociodemographic factors resulting in environmental inequality outcomes that are racially or socioeconomically patterned. The conclusions of urban service provision literature and electrical engineering studies predict unpatterned inequalities resulting from a benign administration of bureaucracy as utilities respond to environmental threats to the electric power grid. Tall tree cover, proximity to major roads, proportions of total outages occurring in summer months, and age of buildings are likely to be contributing factors. The analysis uses GIS software to combine environmental and sociodemographic data, then examines power outage frequency between 2006 and 2010 compared with race and poverty status separately, at the intersection of poverty and race, and factors arising from the natural and built environments. The results show that the environmental factors are better predictors of outage patterns than race, ethnicity, and poverty, that are not significantly associated with higher outage frequency.