A startling study (which did not include outliers such as Katrina) by researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University found that hurricanes assigned female names kill more people than those with male names. The reason? The implicit belief that “female hurricanes” are less dangerous than “male hurricanes”. Yikes.
According to the study, people living in areas threatened by hurricanes every year (such as Florida) take fewer precautions and are less likely to evacuate their homes when preparing for a female-named hurricane to hit and suffer greater consequences as a result.
Through 6 experiments involving a set of questions presented to between 100 to 346 people, respondents predicted female hurricanes to be less intense than male hurricanes. In one experiment, the “sex” of the hurricane even effected how respondents chose to prepare for a hurricane.
The study points out:
Although using human names for hurricanes has been thought by meteorologists to enhance the clarity and recall of storm information, this practice also taps into well-developed and widely held gender stereotypes, with unanticipated and potentially deadly consequences
Results went so far as to show that hurricanes with “strongly feminine names” such as “Eloise” have especially high death tolls.
So, should all hurricanes be given gender-neutral names, such as “Alex” or “Taylor?” A discontinuation of hurricane naming might, according to this study, save thousands of lives.
For policymakers, these findings suggest the value of considering a new system for hurricane naming to reduce the influence of biases on hurricane risk assessments and to motivate optimal preparedness.
Just another reason to never underestimate a lady.