Using social media to measure demographic responses to natural disaster: Insights from a large-scale Facebook survey following the 2019 Australia Bushfires

by   Paige Maas, et al.

In this paper we explore a novel method for collecting survey data following a natural disaster and then combine this data with device-derived mobility information to explore demographic outcomes. Using social media as a survey platform for measuring demographic outcomes, especially those that are challenging or expensive to field for, is increasingly of interest to the demographic community. Recent work by Schneider and Harknett (2019) explores the use of Facebook targeted advertisements to collect data on low-income shift workers in the United States. Other work has addressed immigrant assimilation (Stewart et al, 2019), world fertility (Ribeiro et al, 2020), and world migration stocks (Zagheni et al, 2017). We build on this work by introducing a rapid-response survey of post-disaster demographic and economic outcomes fielded through the Facebook app itself. We use these survey responses to augment app-derived mobility data that comprises Facebook Displacement Maps to assess the validity of and drivers underlying those observed behavioral trends. This survey was deployed following the 2019 Australia bushfires to better understand how these events displaced residents. In doing so we are able to test a number of key hypotheses around displacement and demographics. In particular, we uncover several gender differences in key areas, including in displacement decision-making and timing, and in access to protective equipment such as smoke masks. We conclude with a brief discussion of research and policy implications.


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