Behavioral Responses to Natural Disasters
Catastrophic events can dramatically alter existing social and economic relationships. The consequences can be long-lasting and give rise to heterogeneity of behavior across populations. We investigate the impact of a large negative shock on altruism, trust and reciprocity in 30 small Honduran communities diversely affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. We conduct a survey of communities and behavioral experiments three and four years after the event. We find that the mean and variance of behavior are nonlinearly related to the severity of the weather shock affecting the community. Also, there is a substitution away from formal local organizations to informal arrangements.
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