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Whittier Narrows Earthquake Study, 1988 (ICPSR 34519)

Principal Investigator(s): Bourque, Linda B., University of California-Los Angeles ; Goltz, James D., California Emergency Management Agency


The Whittier Narrows Earthquake Study examined Los Angeles County residents' experiences during, and responses to, the Whittier Narrows Earthquake which occurred on October 1, 1987, and measured 5.9. Telephone interviews were conducted with 690 residents of Los Angeles county between October 1988 and May 1989. Information was collected on topics such as evacuation, personal property damage, disaster/emergency planning and preparedness, and respondents' psychological and emotional distress as a result of the earthquake experience. Demographic variables include gender, age, income, ethnicity, religious preference, home ownership status, education level, marital status, employment status and industry, and area of Los Angeles county where the respondent resided.

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Study Description


Bourque, Linda B., and James D. Goltz. Whittier Narrows Earthquake Study, 1988. ICPSR34519-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-05-29. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34519.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34519.v1

Export Citation:

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This study was funded by:

  • National Science Foundation (CES-8804290)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    disaster relief, disasters, earthquakes, emergency preparedness, emergency services, experience, insurance claims, insurance coverage, media use, mental health

Smallest Geographic Unit:    county

Geographic Coverage:    California, Los Angeles, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1987-10--1989-05

Date of Collection:   

  • 1988-10-01--1989-31-05

Unit of Observation:    individual, household

Universe:    Los Angeles County households who experienced the Whittier Narrow earthquake on October 1, 1987, and who continued to live in Los Angeles County between October 1988 and May 1989.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Additional funding for this study was provided by the Natural Hazards Research and Application Information Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, The University of California-Los Angeles Southern California Research Center with funds from the Center for Disease Control, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute; California Seismic Safety Commission.

Additional information on the Whittier Narrows Earthquake Study can be found by visiting the UCLA Earthquake Survey Data Web site.


Sample:    The sample was comprised of two strata: a high intensity stratum which was oversampled, and the rest of the county. The high impact areas were identified as incorporated communities where Modified Mercalli Intensities (MMI) were 7 or greater on a scale of 0 to 12. MMI provides an estimate of the amount of shaking that a geographic area experienced on October 1, 1987, the day of the earthquake. The high impact strata contained the cities of Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte and South El Monte where the MMI was 7 and Whittier with an MMI of 8. Households were selected using random digit dialing methods. Kish tables were used to select the designated respondent from those 18 and over who resided in the household on October 1, 1987, the date of the Whittier Narrows Earthquake. Telephone numbers were not pre-screened. Within the high impact area, interviews were conducted with 191 of the 254 eligible households identified. In the remainder of the county, interviews were conducted with 499 of the 1,190 numbers assumed to be eligible for the survey.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Weight:    The data are not weighted and no weight variables are present in the data. However, the high intensity area of Los Angeles County (Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Whittier) was intentionally oversampled to obtain approximately 200 interviews in that area. When population parameters are desired, respondents in the high intensity stratum must be weighted at .44, and respondents in the rest of the sample are weighted at 1.0.

Mode of Data Collection:    paper and pencil interview (PAPI), telephone interview

Description of Variables:    The data consist of 486 variables that are centered around respondents' recollection of the earthquake in Whittier Narrows, including information on emergency response, respondent's location when the earthquake struck, insurance claims, reactions since the earthquake, and how respondents obtained information immediately following the earthquake.

Response Rates:    75 percent to 80 percent in high impact area; 42 percent to 57 percent within remainder of Los Angeles County.

Presence of Common Scales:    Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2013-05-29



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