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Moral Hazard, Wildfires, and the Economic Incidence of Natural Disasters

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  • Patrick Baylis
  • Judson Boomhower

Abstract

This study measures the degree to which large public expenditures on wildfire protection subsidize development in harm's way. Using administrative firefighting data, we calculate geographically-differentiated implicit subsidies to homeowners throughout the western USA. We first examine how the presence of homes affects firefighting expenditures. These results are used to reconstruct the implied historical cost of protecting each home and to perform an actuarial calculation of expected future protection cost. The expected net present value of this subsidy can exceed 20% of a home's value. It increases with fire risk and decreases surprisingly steeply with development density. A simple model is used to explore effects on expansion of developed areas, density, and private risk-reducing investments. These results demonstrate how policy and institutions influence the costs imposed by a changing climate.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Baylis & Judson Boomhower, 2019. "Moral Hazard, Wildfires, and the Economic Incidence of Natural Disasters," NBER Working Papers 26550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26550
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-277, June.
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    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2009. "Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8769.
    4. Manning, Willard G., 1998. "The logged dependent variable, heteroscedasticity, and the retransformation problem," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 283-295, June.
    5. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "An Evaluation of Instrumental Variable Strategies for Estimating the Effects of Catholic Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(4), pages 791-821.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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