The demographics of public participation access when communicating environmental risk

V. Beth Kuser Olsen*, Gerald E. Galloway, Matthias Ruth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interaction between humans and their environment is epitomized by climate change issues. Public engagement is essential to communicating anticipated changes and shifting risks. We investigated one such risk—flooding in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. We examined the demographics of flood risk management meeting participants and found they were significantly older, English-only speakers, better educated, more affluent, and more likely to be homeowners than the United States Census Bureau data indicate for the region’s population. The aggregate gender and ethnic representation of all communities reflected that of the region’s population, but individual communities were much less diverse. These findings show that it is important for risk managers to organize meetings in many local communities in their jurisdiction to capture all demographically diverse sectors. Outreach efforts should adapt to target younger community members, non-English speakers, lower-wage earners, and renters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-136
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Ecology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

© The authors, 2018


  • Demographics
  • Public engagement
  • Risk management

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