Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI)

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The Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) measures the social vulnerability of U.S. counties to environmental hazards. The index is a comparative metric that helps users examine differences in social vulnerability among counties. SOVI graphically illustrates the geographic variation in social vulnerability. It is a valuable tool for policy makers and practitioners because it shows differences in capacity for preparedness and response, as well as areas where resources might be used most effectively to reduce vulnerability. SOVI is also useful as an indicator in determining the level of recovery from disasters.

Through a partnership with the University of South Carolina (USC) and funding via South Carolina Sea Grant and the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, the SOVI method has now been applied to Census 2000 block groups and Census 2010 tracts for all coastal states, providing a more detailed look at a community’s social vulnerability.

All SOVI data and methods were developed by the USC Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. For more information, visit

Data Specifications

  • Area of Coverage: National (coastal)
  • Dates Available: 2000, 2010
  • Format: Shapefile
  • Scale: Census Block Group (2000), Census Tract (2010)

Stories from the Field

Visualizing Coastal Flooding Vulnerabilities to Plan for Resilience in New Jersey
The NJ Flood Mapper has been widely adopted in Sandy’s aftermath to assess coastal vulnerability and plan for resilience.

Assessing Hazard Vulnerability and Resilience in Coastal Communities of the Delaware Bay
New Jersey is engaging communities in hazard mitigation planning through the use of vulnerability assessment tools.

Examining Flood Exposure Data along the Mississippi and Louisiana Coasts
The Coastal County Flood Exposure Snapshot is helping service organizations develop hazard preparation and recovery plans to assist vulnerable communities.

Identifying Areas Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise in Georgia
The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer helped a barrier island community develop an adaptation plan to prepare for and adapt to sea level rise.

Understanding Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise in Southeast Florida
Data from the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer helped in the development of policies and programs to address sea level rise.