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An Exploration of the Link Between Development, Economic Growth, and Natural Risk


  • Stéphane Hallegatte

    (The World Bank, USA)


This paper investigates the link between development, economic growth, and the economic losses from natural disasters in a normative analytical framework, with an illustration on hurricane flood risks in New Orleans. It concludes that, where capital accumulates through increased density of capital at risk in a given area, it is optimal for (i) the probability of disaster occurrence to decrease with income; (ii) the capital at risk – and thus the economic losses in case of disaster – to increase faster than economic growth; (iii) the average annual losses to grow faster than income at low levels of development and slower than income at high levels of development. In that case, increasing risk-taking reinforces economic growth, and improving protections transfer risks from frequent low-intensity events to rarer high-impact events. These findings are robust to a broad range of modeling choices and parameter values, and to the inclusion of risk aversion. Risk-taking is both a driver and a consequence of economic development, and should not be indiscriminately suppressed. The observation of a trend in disaster losses should not be confused with the presence of excessive risk taking. In a descriptive framework, suboptimal decision-making (the introduction of prospect theory's decision weights, biases in risk perception and myopic expectations) may amplify these trends and lead to excessive or insufficient risk taking. In all instances, the world is very likely to experience fewer but more costly disasters in the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Stéphane Hallegatte, 2013. "An Exploration of the Link Between Development, Economic Growth, and Natural Risk," Working Papers 2013.29, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2013.29

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Henriet, Fanny & Hallegatte, Stéphane & Tabourier, Lionel, 2012. "Firm-network characteristics and economic robustness to natural disasters," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 150-167.
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    6. Stéphane Hallegatte, 2012. "A cost effective solution to reduce disaster losses in developing countries: hydro-meteorological services, early warning, and evacuation," Post-Print hal-00802045, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Noy, Ilan & Karim, Azreen, 2013. "Poverty, inequality and natural disasters – A survey," Working Paper Series 2974, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    2. McDermott,Thomas K.J., 2016. "Investing in disaster risk management in an uncertain climate," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7631, The World Bank.
    3. Cira,Dean A. & Kalra,Nidhi Rajiv & Lempert,Robert J. & Lotsch,Alexander & Mao, Zhimin & Peyraud, Suzanne & Bach,Sinh Tan, 2013. "Ensuring robust flood risk management in Ho Chi Minh city," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6465, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Development; Economic Growth; Risk; Natural Disaster; Economic Losses;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O44 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Environment and Growth
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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