The economic damage from flooding in the coastal areas has dramatically increased over the past several decades. One effective way to mitigate excessive economic losses from flooding is to purchase flood insurance. In reality, only a minority of coastal residents however have taken this preventive measure. In order to understand the driving force behind individuals' decision to voluntarily purchase flood insurance, my coauthors and I examine how external influences and perceptions of flood-related risks together with socio-demographic factors affect this voluntary behavior in the U.S. Gulf Coast by using survey data merged with contextual data. This paper has been published on Water Research.
Our findings indicate that estimated flood risks conveyed through FEMA's flood maps, intensities and consequences of past storms and flooding events, as well as perceived flood-related risks significantly affect individuals’ voluntary flood insurance purchase behaviors. The finding about FEMA's flood maps has significant policy implication that FEMA’s flood maps have been effective in conveying local flood risks to coastal residents, and correspondingly influencing their decisions to voluntarily seek flood insurance. Flood maps therefore should be updated frequently to reflect timely and accurate flood risks.