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The Weakest Link Hypothesis For Adaptive Capacity: An Empirical Test

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Author Info

  • Richard S.J. Tol

    (Hamburg University and Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Science, Hamburg, Germany)

  • Gary W. Yohe

    ()
    (Economics Department, Wesleyan University)

Abstract

Yohe and Tol (2001) built an indexing method for vulnerability based on the hypothesis that the adaptive capacity for any system facing a vector of external stresses could be explained by the weakest of eight underlying determinants – the so-called “weakest link” hypothesis. Subsequent work supported the hypothesis by analogy from other contexts, but we now offer perhaps the first attempt to explore its validity through empirical means. We estimate a structural form designed to accommodate the full range of possible interactions across determinants. The perfect complement case of the pure “weakest-link” formulation lies on one extreme, and the perfect substitute case where each determinant can compensate for all others at constant rates is the other limiting case. For vulnerability to natural disasters, infant mortality and drinking water treatment, we find qualified support for a modified weakest link hypothesis: the weakest indicator plays an important role, but is not essential because other factors can compensate (with increasing difficulty). For life expectancy, sanitation and nutrition, we find a relationship that is close to linear – the perfect substitute case where the various determinants of adaptive capacity can compensate for each other. Moreover, we find another source of diversity in the assessment of vulnerability, since the factors from which systems draw to create adaptive capacity are different for different risks.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wesleyan University, Department of Economics in its series Wesleyan Economics Working Papers with number 2006-005.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2006-005

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Keywords: Adaptive capacity; vulnerability; weakest-link hypothesis; substitution;

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  1. L. Alan Winters & Neil McCulloch & Andrew McKay, 2004. "Trade Liberalization and Poverty: The Evidence So Far," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(1), pages 72-115, March.
  2. Scott Rozelle & Johan F.M. Swinnen, 2004. "Success and Failure of Reform: Insights from the Transition of Agriculture," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 404-456, June.
  3. Gernot Doppelhofer & Ronald I. Miller & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2000. "Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," NBER Working Papers 7750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:rus:hseeco:70719 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Gary W. Yohe & Richard S.J. Tol, 2001. "Indicators for Social and Economic Coping Capacity – Moving Toward at Working Definition of Adaptive Capacity," Working Papers FNU-8, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jun 2001.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Richard S.J. Tol & Kristie L. Ebi & Gary W. Yohe, 2006. "Infectious Disease, Development, And Climate Change: A Scenario Analysis," Working Papers FNU-109, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jun 2006.
  2. Ács, Zoltán J. & Autio, Erkko & Szerb, László, 2014. "National Systems of Entrepreneurship: Measurement issues and policy implications," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 476-494.
  3. Richard S. J. Tol, 2009. "The Economic Effects of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 29-51, Spring.

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