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Census Bureau’s New Experimental CRE Tool Shows How Vulnerable Communities Are to Disasters, Including COVID-19

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For the first time, using newly developed experimental estimates, the U.S. Census Bureau has created a tool to help measure the degree of a community’s resilience in the face of disasters and other emergencies.

The Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) is a resilience measure that identifies a community’s ability to endure, respond and recover from the impact of disasters.

Rural counties are far more likely to have greater proportions of high-risk populations. Thirty percent of all rural counties are high-risk compared to 14% of all urban counties.

The Community Resilience Estimates can be used for any purpose where specific risk factors are useful at low levels of geography.

Individuals with three or more risk factors – from health and income to age and living conditions – are considered high risk. Likewise, communities are high risk if at least 30% of their population has three or more risk factors.

The estimates combine 2018 American Community Survey 1-year microdata and data from Population Estimates with publicly available data from the 2018 National Center for Health Statistics National Health Interview Survey to identify the population most at risk of not being able to endure the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The risk factors include: aged 65 and above; low-income household; single or no caregiver household; household communication barrier; employment status; disability status; physical crowding; lack of health insurance; respiratory disease; heart disease; and diabetes.


Preliminary results show that 34% of counties in the South, particularly in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas, have at least 30% of their population high risk.


We also see higher numbers of high-risk counties in Mississippi, Georgia, and further along the coast in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.



Rural counties are far more likely to have greater proportions of high-risk populations. Thirty percent of all rural counties are high-risk compared to 14% of all urban counties.


Some of the factors that are associated with more high-risk communities include:

  • Low income, especially in rural communities.
  • Greater proportion of single mothers.
  • Majority Black and Hispanic population.
  • Greater proportion of residents 65 and older, a population at significant risk for infection and developing severe illness.





Disaster Preparedness Tool

According to the CDC, as of today, there are 2.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 125,000 deaths.

Stakeholders can use CRE in addition to other tools to help combat the current crisis and plan for future health and weather-related disasters.

Improved readiness can mitigate the impact of disasters on at-risk populations as well as the economic burden on individuals, households, and governments.

With the release of CRE, the Census Bureau is becoming a leading provider of accurate data valuable to emergency responders and disaster recovery stakeholders.

In response to COVID-19, the Census Bureau has released several tools in recent weeks to help monitor the economic and demographic health of the nation: Small Business Pulse Survey; Household Pulse Survey; and the COVID-19 Hub.


Gabriel Amaro and Kate Willyard are survey statisticians in the Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.


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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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