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Natural hazards compound COVID-19 impacts on small businesses disproportionately for historically underrepresented group operators



Jennifer Helgeson, Payam Aminpour Mohammadabadi, Juan Fung, Alfredo Roa Henriquez, Ariela Zycherman, David Butry, Claudia Nierenberg, Yating Zhang


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic small businesses made headlines as hard hit by customer losses, revenue declines, and business closures. Yet, the impacts have been felt disproportionately by small businesses that suffered interruption due to pre-existing socioeconomic stressors and/or concurrent natural hazards experienced during the pandemic. To illuminate those compound impacts, we conducted a survey of over 1350 U S.-based small businesses. Our findings indicate that those businesses that experienced concurrent natural hazards during the pandemic were associated with relatively greater negative impacts. But importantly, enterprises that are historically underrepresented group operated (HUGO)—minority, women, and veteran-operated businesses— saw largely amplified negative impacts from COVID-19. In terms of the magnitude of COVID-19 impacts, the effect size of belonging to HUGO was more than twice as large as the effect size of experiencing a concurrent natural hazard during the pandemic. These results provide evidence for the disproportionate impacts that HUGOs face due to the pandemic, which are exacerbated when compounded by natural hazards. Given these results, there is evidence that the opportunity gap between HUGO and non-HUGO businesses is significant ahead of additional stressors or shocks. This opportunity gap is further accelerated when compounded with other events, here the compounding of natural hazards and COVID-19. Additional interventions need to be offered to HUGO businesses in areas with high likelihood of overlapping incidents. Further work is required to address social inequity and economic fragility of HUGO businesses, especially those that face the complexity of additional shocks, such as natural hazards.
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction


COVID-19, Historically underrepresented groups, Natural hazards, Small- and medium-sized business, Complex events


Helgeson, J. , Aminpour Mohammadabadi, P. , Fung, J. , Roa Henriquez, A. , Zycherman, A. , Butry, D. , Nierenberg, C. and Zhang, Y. (2022), Natural hazards compound COVID-19 impacts on small businesses disproportionately for historically underrepresented group operators, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, [online],, (Accessed April 23, 2024)
Created April 1, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022