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By Ralph Lawton
Natural disasters can have catastrophic personal and economic effects, particularly in low-resource settings. Major natural disasters are becoming more frequent, so rigorous understanding of their effects on long-term economic wellbeing is fundamentally important in order to mitigate their impacts on exposed populations. In this paper, I investigate the effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on real consumption and assets at the individual level. I also examine the heterogeneity of those impacts, and the related effects on inequality. Taking individual-specific heterogeneity into account with fixed effects, I find individuals living in heavily damaged areas experience major declines in real consumption and assets, and do not recover in the long term. These results are strikingly different than results that do not consider price effects, as well as previously published macroeconomic results. I also find significant heterogeneity by age, education-level, pre-tsunami socioeconomic status, and whether an individual went into a refugee camp. The tsunami resulted in large, long-term declines in asset inequality, and a temporary increase in consumption inequality that returns to near pre-tsunami levels in the long run.
Advisors: Professor Duncan Thomas, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D1, D15, H84
By Danjie Fang
Empirical research on the impact of natural disasters on economic growth has provided contradictory results and few studies have focused on the United States. In this thesis, I bridge the gap by examining the merits of existing claims on the relationship between natural disasters and growth at the states and county level in the U.S. I find that climatological and geophysical disasters have a small and negative impact on growth rates at the state level, but that this impact disappears over time. At the county level, I find that tornados have a slight but negative impact on per capita GDP levels and growth rates over a five year period across three states that experience this natural phenomenon. Controlling for FEMA aid, I find that there may be upward omitted variable bias in regressions that do not include the amount of aid as a variable. I find evidence that FEMA aid has a small but positive impact on growth and per capita GDP levels at both the county and state level.
Advisor: Christopher Timmins, Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: O11, O40, Q58 | Tagged: