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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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  • Keefer, Philip & Neumayer, Eric & Plumper, Thomas, 2010. "Earthquake propensity and the politics of mortality prevention," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5182, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5182

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
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    5. 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.
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    More about this item


    Population Policies; Natural Disasters; Hazard Risk Management; Labor Policies; Disaster Management;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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