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Earthquake propensity and the politics of mortality prevention

  • Keefer, Philip
  • Neumayer, Eric
  • Plumper, Thomas

Governments can significantly reduce earthquake mortality by implementing and enforcing quake-proof construction regulation. The authors examine why many governments do not. Contrary to intuition, controlling for the strength and location of actual earthquakes, mortality is lower in countries with higher earthquake propensity, where the payoffs to mortality prevention are higher. Importantly, however, the government response to earthquake propensity depends on country income and the political incentives of governments to provide public goods to citizens. The opportunity costs of earthquake mortality prevention are higher in poorer countries; rich countries invest more in mortality prevention than poor countries in response to a higher earthquake propensity. Similarly, governments that have fewer incentives to provide public goods, such as younger democracies, autocracies with less institutionalized ruling parties and countries with corrupt regimes, respond less to an elevated quake propensity. They therefore have higher mortality at any level of quake propensity compared to older democracies, autocracies with highly institutionalized parties and non-corrupt regimes, respectively. The authors find robust evidence for these predictions in our analysis of earthquake mortality over the period 1960 to 2005.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5182.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5182
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  1. Thomas Plümper & Eric Neumayer, 2007. "Famine mortality, rational political inactivity, and international food aid," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25169, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Matthew E. Kahn, 2005. "The Death Toll from Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 271-284, May.
  3. Kenny, Charles, 2009. "Why do people die in earthquakes ? the costs, benefits and institutions of disaster risk reduction in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4823, The World Bank.
  4. Razvan Vlaicu, 2008. "Democracy, Credibility, and Clientelism," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 371-406, October.
  5. McClelland, Gary H & Schulze, William D & Coursey, Don L, 1993. " Insurance for Low-Probability Hazards: A Bimodal Response to Unlikely Events," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 95-116, August.
  6. Philip Keefer & Stuti Khemani, 2005. "Democracy, Public Expenditures, and the Poor: Understanding Political Incentives for Providing Public Services," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 20(1), pages 1-27.
  7. Anbarci, Nejat & Escaleras, Monica & Register, Charles A., 2005. "Earthquake fatalities: the interaction of nature and political economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1907-1933, September.
  8. Plumper, Thomas & Martin, Christian W, 2003. " Democracy, Government Spending, and Economic Growth: A Political-Economic Explanation of the Barro-Effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(1-2), pages 27-50, October.
  9. J. Scott Long & Jeremy Freese, 2006. "Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables using Stata, 2nd Edition," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 2, number long2, November.
  10. Monica Escaleras & Nejat Anbarci & Charles Register, 2007. "Public sector corruption and major earthquakes: A potentially deadly interaction," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 209-230, July.
  11. Colin F. Camerer & Howard Kunreuther, 1989. "Decision processes for low probability events: Policy implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 565-592.
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