Informality in Postdisaster Reconstruction: The Role of Social Capital in Reconstruction Management in Post–Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. By: Talbot, Jessica; Poleacovschi, Cristina; Hamideh, Sara; Santos-Rivera, Carlos. Journal of Management in Engineering. Nov2020, Vol. 36 Issue 6, p1-14. 14p.

On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. To continue on their path to recovery, many households have, when other resources became scarce, relied on informal housing reconstruction, such as building without a contractor and using untrained labor. Housing in Puerto Rico has a history of informality that goes back long before Hurricane Maria, and behind this behavior are many complex, interwoven drivers. As one way to understand why certain households—and not others—were able to use informal reconstruction in their recovery process, this study uses social capital theory, in the form of bonding, bridging, and linking social capital. This study answers the following question: “What forms of social capital are most salient in supporting informal housing reconstruction by households in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria?” Surveys were conducted with household owners in two municipalities of Puerto Rico. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that people’s bridging social capital was positively associated with their level of informal housing reconstruction, and negatively associated with their level of completed reconstruction among homeowners who reconstructed informally. These results have theoretical implications for social capital in disaster recovery, including the importance of promoting connections among heterogeneous groups. The research contributes to policy and practice by specifying the key social relationships that allow households to continue rebuilding when official processes, such as using a contractor or obtaining permits, become inaccessible or ineffective.