What is Cascading?

Cascading is the process of experiencing crisis and loss in ways that create the potential for additional declines.

A cascading event, whether it is the loss of income or an illness, can precipitate multiple losses which can in turn become a constellation of descents—social, interpersonal, and aspirational as well as financial. Such interlocking crises need not always end in precipitous economic decline. The shape and severity of a cascade might be interrupted and reversed when it is mediated by family resources and relationships, a mentor, a strategic social support program or service, or a public policy or a new law.

A cascade may be driven not only by large-scale social events - war, recession, environmental disaster - but also by individual, family, or community problems, such as illness, divorce, addiction, imprisonment, a mental health crisis, or being the target of violence.

Examples of Individual "Cascading Moments"

Some examples of how cascading can look in the lives of individuals include:

Examples of Collective "Cascading Moments"

Some examples of how cascading can look in the lives of communities are:

Our Methodology: Life History Interviews

The concept of cascading is closely tied to the life history method in which people’s experiences of specific events are situated in the broader context of their lives. Instead of seeing a crisis as simply a fixed moment in time, life histories allow us to consider how the character and consequences of a crisis are shaped by an individual’s past as well as the evolving social and economic historical context.