Could bad weather be responsible for U.S. corruption? This paper argues that natural disasters create resource windfalls in the states they strike by triggering federally-provided natural disaster relief. Consistent with the theory that natural resource and foreign aid windfalls increase public corruption, disaster relief windfalls likely do as well. We investigate this hypothesis by exploring the e¤ect of FEMA-provided disaster relief on public corruption. The results support our hypothesis. Each additional $1 per capita in average annual FEMA relief increases corruption nearly 2.5 percent in the average state. Eliminating FEMA disaster relief would reduce corruption more than 20 percent in the average state. Our ?ndings suggest that notoriously corrupt regions of the United States, such as the Gulf Coast, are notoriously corrupt because natural disasters frequently strike them.
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