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The 1960 Tsunami in Hawaii: Long Term Consequences of a Coastal Disaster

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  • Lynham, J
  • Noy, I
  • Page, J

Abstract

Research on the economic and human toll of natural disasters focuses on the short-term, often ignoring the important long-term impacts of these catastrophic events. The main reason for the lack of empirical research on the long-term is the inherent and unavoidable difficulty in identifying any long-term impacts and attributing them to the disaster. On the 23rd of May 1960, a devastating tsunami struck the city of Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Remarkably, there was no significant injury or damage elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. This tsunami provides a unique natural experiment as the tsunami was unexpected, and the other Hawaiian Islands, which were not hit by the tsunami, provide an ideal control group that enables us to precisely identify the counter-factual. We use a newly developed synthetic control methodology formalized in Abadie et al. (2010) to measure the long-term impacts of the tsunami. We find that while wages did not decline noticeably, population and employment trends shifted. Fifteen years after the event, unemployment was still 32% higher and population was still 9% lower than it would have been had the tsunami not occurred. We also find a corresponding decrease in the number of employers and sugar production in the county.

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File URL: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/2389
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance in its series Working Paper Series with number 2389.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwecf:2389

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Postal: Alice Fong, Administrator, School of Economics and Finance, Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: +64 (4) 463-5353
Fax: +64 (4) 463-5014
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Web page: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sef
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Keywords: coastal disasters; disaster impact; Hilo; tsunami; Hawaii; synthetic control;

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References

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  1. Richard Hornbeck, 2009. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short and Long-run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," NBER Working Papers 15605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. G淡rgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2010. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," CEI Working Paper Series 2010-2, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  3. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
  4. Coffman, Makena & Noy, Ilan, 2012. "Hurricane Iniki: measuring the long-term economic impact of a natural disaster using synthetic control," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(02), pages 187-205, April.
  5. Hornbeck, Richard A., 2012. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," Scholarly Articles 11303325, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Alberto Abadie & Javier Gardeazabal, 2003. "The Economic Costs of Conflict: A Case Study of the Basque Country," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 113-132, March.
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  15. Deryugina, Tatyana, 2011. "The Role of Transfer Payments in Mitigating Shocks: Evidence From the Impact of Hurricanes," MPRA Paper 53307, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 08 Aug 2013.
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