College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joseph R. Ferrari, PhD

Second Advisor

Jerry Cleland, PhD


Community level factors influence many aspects of residents’ lives (Flournoy & Yen, 2004), including health (Ellen et al., 200). An instance in which community level factors greatly influence individual health is in the case of a disaster (Couch & Coles, 2010; Steinglass & Gerrity, 1990). A recent and ongoing global disaster that communities are experiencing is the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of disaster, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, disaster management and response are crucial for communities. A community-level factor that influences individual and community health in times of disaster is social vulnerability. Another community level factor that has yet to be explored in literature examining disaster impact but may contribute to a community’s disaster impact is community livability. The present study aimed to examine the relationship between social vulnerability, community livability, and COVID-19 disaster impacts using the state of Illinois as a case study. Furthermore, the present study sought to examine the difference of results at two community-level structures: county-level and region-level data. Data utilized for the present study were all archival including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index, AARP’s Community Livability Index, and Illinois COVID-19 public health statistics for COVID-19 infection rates. The present study found that social vulnerability positively predicts COVID-19 infection rates at the county-level, but not at the region-level. Additionally, the present study adds novel contribution to disaster literature by finding significant relationships between social vulnerability themes and community livability dimensions. Community livability was tested as a moderator for the relationship between social vulnerability and COVID-19 positivity infection rates and the model was found to be nonsignificant. The present study results build on current disaster literature and has implications for community psychology, research, and disaster management practice.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons