Working Papers

Earthquakes and Economic Growth

Natural disasters are known to have devastating immediate impacts, but their long-run effect on economic growth is not well understood. For the natural hazard of earthquakes, this paper provides the first global empirical study on this topic that applies a measure of the exogenous physical hazard responsible for earthquake impacts, earthquake ground shaking. I exploit the random within-country year-to-year variation of shaking to identify the causal effect of earthquakes on economic growth. To construct a panel dataset with country-year observations of earthquake exposure and socioeconomic variables, I combine the universe of relevant earthquake ground shaking data from 1973 to 2015 with country-level World Bank indicators. I find negative long-run growth impacts for an average country comparable with recent findings for climate-related natural disasters. A typical earthquake reduces GDP per capita by 1.6% eight years later, with substantial heterogeneity by country categories. In particular, low and middle-income countries experience the greatest long-run economic damages while high-income countries may even experience some positive “building back better” effects. Based on an analysis of alternative spatial aggregation approaches, I find earthquake impacts are driven by local high-intensity events rather than spatially diffuse exposure to lower intensity shaking.

The Relationship between Nightlight and Socio­economic Variables at High Spatial Resolutions.

Lackner, S., Pennerstorfer D., Sinabell F., and C. Small

Gulf Coast Parents Speak: Children’s Health Outcomes in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Beedasy J., Petkova E., Lackner S., Sury J., Jeong Oh E., and W.-Y. Tsai

A new Approach to Visualizing Spatial Exposure Data for Comparing Earthquakes.

The comparison of different earthquakes with each other is a popular tool to highlight particular aspects of one or several events. The objective is often to demonstrate differences in the social conditions and how those affect the outcome of earthquake impacts. In this work I argue that for a comprehensive comparison of events it is necessary to first discuss the differences in the natural hazard of ground shaking itself. Unfortunately, whenever differences in shaking are discussed, these discussions usually provide technical details that describe why the shaking was different and neglect to present how the shaking was different. In this work I suggest and demonstrate an approach that utilizes two separate but complimentary steps of data visualizations which can facilitate an effective communication of earthquake shaking and population exposure data to non-experts. The suggested approach can be applied to any ground motion parameter. The first step is a geospatial comparison of shaking maps at the same spatial and color scale. The second step simplifies the interpretation of the shaking profiles by removing the spatial component and plotting shaking and population “exposure curves” which I define in this work. In some cases the exposure curves allow for a clear ranking of events in terms of shaking strength or population exposure.