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Subjective measures of household resilience to climate variability and change: insights from a nationally representative survey of Tanzania

Lindsey Jones, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK; Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, London, UK; Overseas Development Institute, London, UK
Emma Samman, Overseas Development Institute, London, UK
Patrick Vinck, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, USA


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Promoting household resilience to climate extremes has emerged as a key development priority. Yet tracking and evaluating resilience at this level remains a critical challenge. Most quantitative approaches rely on objective indicators and assessment frameworks, but these are not fully satisfactory. Much of the difficulty arises from a combination of conceptual ambiguities, challenges in selecting appropriate indicators, and in measuring the many intangible aspects that contribute to household resilience. More recently, subjective measures of resilience have been advocated in helping to overcome some of the limitations of traditional objective characterizations. However, few large-scale studies of quantitative subjective approaches to resilience measurement have been conducted.

In this study, we address this gap by exploring perceived levels of household resilience to climate extremes in Tanzania and the utility of standardized subjective methods for its assessment. A nationally representative cross-sectional survey involving 1294 individuals was carried out by mobile phone in June 2015 among randomly selected adult respondents aged 18 and above. Factors that are most associated with resilience-related capacities are having had advance knowledge of a previous flood, and to a lesser extent, believing flooding to be a serious community problem. Somewhat surprisingly, though a small number of weak relationships are apparent, most socio-demographic variables do not exhibit statistically significant differences with regards to perceived resilience-related capacities. These findings may challenge traditional assumptions about what factors characterize household resilience, offering a motivation for studying both subjective and objective perspectives, and understanding better their relationship to one another. If further validated, subjective measures may offer potential as both a complement and alternative to traditional objective methods of resilience measurement, each with their own merits and limitations.

Key words

measurement; perceptions; resilience; subjective

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087