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Hurricanes with Female Names Deadlier

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According to a new article from a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, Hurricane Victor will strike more fear into the hearts of Americans than Hurricane Victoria. Hurricanes with feminine names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than hurricanes with masculine names, apparently because storms with feminine names are perceived as less threatening. An analysis of more than six decades of death rates from U.S. hurricanes shows that severe hurricanes with a more feminine name result in a greater death toll, simply because a storm with a feminine name is seen as less foreboding than one with a more masculine name. As a result, people in the path of these severe storms may take fewer protective measures, leaving them more vulnerable to harm. [Photo by  L. Brian Stauffer  From left, Kiju Jung, a doctoral student in marketing in the U. of I.'s College of Business and the lead author on the study, and Madhu Viswanathan and Sharon Shavitt, both professors of marketing at Illinois]
The finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, which has important implications for policymakers, meteorologists, the news media and the public regarding hurricane communication and preparedness, the researchers say. "The problem is that a hurricane's name has nothing to do with its severity," said Kiju Jung, a doctoral student in marketing in the U. of I.'s College of Business and the lead author on the study. "Names are assigned arbitrarily, based on a predetermined list of alternating male and female names," he said. "If people in the path of a severe storm are judging the risk based on the storm's name, then this is potentially very dangerous."
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined actual hurricane fatalities for all storms that made landfall in the U.S. from 1950-2012, excluding Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Audrey (1957) because they were much deadlier than the typical storm. The authors found that for highly damaging storms, the more feminine the storm's name, the more people it killed. The team's analysis suggests that changing a severe hurricane's name from the masculine "Charley" to the feminine "Eloise" could nearly triple its death toll. To read more click here: http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/14/0602genderedhurricanes_SharonShavitt.html


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