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The Effects of Natural Disasters on Human Capital Accumulation

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  • Thomas K.J. McDermott

    () (School of Business and Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin)

Abstract

In this paper I investigate the effects of disasters on human capital accumulation using an extensive panel dataset on natural disasters, covering 170 countries over a 25 year period (1980-2004). My analysis shows that disasters have both a direct, contemporaneous effect and a long-term, indirect effect on human capital. While the direct effects - primarily related to injury, illness and death suffered as a result of the disaster - are relatively straightforward, the indirect effects will depend on household decision-making in the aftermath of the disaster. Treating human capital as a long-term investment decision, it is clear that access to finance is likely to be a crucial factor in household decisions about whether or not to invest in children's health and education. Indeed, my results show that aid flows are effective in mitigating the long-term impacts of disasters on health outcomes. However, for school enrollment rates, the longer-term effects of disasters are dependent on the availability of credit. These findings could have important policy implications. The indirect effects are unlikely to have been identified in previous analyses that focus on the short-term impacts of natural disasters. Given the importance of human capital in the process of economic development, the results presented here suggest that natural disasters represent a significant threat to the development prospects of relatively poor countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas K.J. McDermott, 2011. "The Effects of Natural Disasters on Human Capital Accumulation," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp391, IIIS, revised Feb 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:iis:dispap:iiisdp391
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Wenzel, Lars & Wolf, André, 2013. "Protection against major catastrophes: An economic perspective," HWWI Research Papers 137, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    2. F. Zhou & W.J.W. Botzen, 2017. "The Impact of Natural Disasters on Firm Growth in Vietnam: : Interaction with Financial Constraints," Working Papers 17-20, Utrecht School of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    natural disasters; epidemics; human capital; credit markets; development;

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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