Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes

Edited by Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved May 14, 2014 (received for review February 13, 2014)
June 2, 2014
111 (24) 8782-8787
Population matters when modeling hurricane fatalities
Laura A. Bakkensen, William Larson
Are female hurricanes really deadlier than male hurricanes?
Björn Christensen, Sören Christensen
Reply to Maley: Yes, appropriate modeling of fatality counts confirms female hurricanes are deadlier
Kiju Jung, Sharon Shavitt [...] Joseph M. Hilbe
Reply to Bakkensen and Larson: Population may matter but does not alter conclusions
Kiju Jung, Sharon Shavitt [...] Joseph M. Hilbe


Meteorologists and geoscientists have called for greater consideration of social science factors that predict responses to natural hazards. We answer this call by highlighting the influence of an unexplored social factor, gender-based expectations, on the human toll of hurricanes that are assigned gendered names. Feminine-named hurricanes (vs. masculine-named hurricanes) cause significantly more deaths, apparently because they lead to lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness. Using names such as Eloise or Charlie for referencing hurricanes has been thought by meteorologists to enhance the clarity and recall of storm information. We show that this practice also taps into well-developed and widely held gender stereotypes, with potentially deadly consequences. Implications are discussed for understanding and shaping human responses to natural hazard warnings.


Do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations? We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes. Laboratory experiments indicate that this is because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action. This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.

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We thank Norbert Schwarz, Don Wuebbles, and Steven C. Zimmerman for helpful comments on previous drafts. We acknowledge support from the Association for Consumer Research/Sheth Foundation dissertation award (to K.J.).

Supporting Information

Supporting Information (PDF)
Supporting Information


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Information & Authors


Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 111 | No. 24
June 17, 2014
PubMed: 24889620


Submission history

Published online: June 2, 2014
Published in issue: June 17, 2014


  1. gender stereotypes
  2. implicit bias
  3. risk perception
  4. natural hazard communication
  5. bounded rationality


We thank Norbert Schwarz, Don Wuebbles, and Steven C. Zimmerman for helpful comments on previous drafts. We acknowledge support from the Association for Consumer Research/Sheth Foundation dissertation award (to K.J.).


*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.



Department of Business Administration and
Sharon Shavitt1 [email protected]
Department of Business Administration and
Department of Psychology, Institute of Communications Research, and Survey Research Laboratory, and
Madhu Viswanathan
Department of Business Administration and
Women and Gender in Global Perspectives, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820; and
Joseph M. Hilbe
Department of Statistics, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-3701


To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: K.J. and S.S. designed research; K.J. performed research; K.J. and J.M.H. analyzed data; K.J., S.S., and M.V. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 111
    • No. 24
    • pp. 8697-9015







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