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The 1960 Tsunami in Hawaii: Long Term Consequences of a Coastal Disaster

Research on the economic and human toll of natural disasters focuses on the short-term, often ignoring the important long-term impacts of these catastrophic events. The main reason for the lack of empirical research on the long-term is the inherent and unavoidable difficulty in identifying any long-term impacts and attributing them to the disaster. On the 23rd of May 1960, a devastating tsunami struck the city of Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Remarkably, there was no significant injury or damage elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. This tsunami provides a unique natural experiment as the tsunami was unexpected, and the other Hawaiian Islands, which were not hit by the tsunami, provide an ideal control group that enables us to precisely identify the counter-factual. We use a newly developed synthetic control methodology formalized in Abadie et al. (2010) to measure the long-term impacts of the tsunami. We find that while wages did not decline noticeably, population and employment trends shifted. Fifteen years after the event, unemployment was still 32% higher and population was still 9% lower than it would have been had the tsunami not occurred. We also find a corresponding decrease in the number of employers and sugar production in the county.

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File URL: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/2389
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Paper provided by Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance in its series Working Paper Series with number 2389.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwecf:2389
Contact details of provider: Postal: Alice Fong, Administrator, School of Economics and Finance, Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: +64 (4) 463-5353
Fax: +64 (4) 463-5014
Web page: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sef
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  1. Noy, Ilan, 2009. "The macroeconomic consequences of disasters," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 221-231, March.
  2. Richard Hornbeck, 2009. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short and Long-run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," NBER Working Papers 15605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Strobl, Eric, 2012. "The economic growth impact of natural disasters in developing countries: Evidence from hurricane strikes in the Central American and Caribbean regions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 130-141.
  4. Jacob Vigdor, 2008. "The Economic Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 135-54, Fall.
  5. Deryugina, Tatyana, 2011. "The Role of Transfer Payments in Mitigating Shocks: Evidence From the Impact of Hurricanes," MPRA Paper 53307, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 08 Aug 2013.
  6. Eduardo Cavallo & Sebastian Galiani & Ilan Noy & Juan Pantano, 2010. "Catastrophic Natural Disasters and Economic Growth," Working Papers 201006, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  7. Gorgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2007. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," IZA Discussion Papers 2543, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Alberto Abadie & Javier Gardeazabal, 2003. "The Economic Costs of Conflict: A Case Study of the Basque Country," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 113-132, March.
  9. Carter, Michael R. & Little, Peter D. & Mogues, Tewodaj & Negatu, Workneh, 2007. "Poverty Traps and Natural Disasters in Ethiopia and Honduras," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 835-856, May.
  10. Loayza, Norman V. & Olaberría, Eduardo & Rigolini, Jamele & Christiaensen, Luc, 2012. "Natural Disasters and Growth: Going Beyond the Averages," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1317-1336.
  11. Coffman, Makena & Noy, Ilan, 2012. "Hurricane Iniki: measuring the long-term economic impact of a natural disaster using synthetic control," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(02), pages 187-205, April.
  12. Mark Skidmore & Hideki Toya, 2002. "Do Natural Disasters Promote Long-Run Growth?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(4), pages 664-687, October.
  13. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
  14. Oscar Becerra & Eduardo Cavallo & Ilan Noy, 2010. "In the Aftermath of Large Natural Disasters, what happens to foreign aid?," Working Papers 201018, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
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