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Household impacts of typhoons in the Philippines

posted Nov 15, 2011, 8:35 AM by Solomon Hsiang   [ updated Feb 19, 2013, 4:20 PM ]

Jesse Anttila-Hughes and I have just finished this new working paper:

Abstract: The direct physical damage caused by environmental
disasters is straightforward to document and often the focus of media and government attention, but addressing disasters' indirect effects remains difficult because they are challenging to observe.  We exploit annual variation in the incidence of typhoons (West-Pacific hurricanes) to identify the effect of environmental disaster on economic and health outcomes in Filipino households.  We find that the Philippines' typhoon climate causes large losses to households' economic well being, destroying durable assets and depressing incomes in the wake of storms.  Household income losses translate directly into expenditure reductions, which are achieved in part through disinvestments in health and human capital.  Examining infant mortality rates, we observe substantially increased female infant mortality in the years following storm exposure.  Striking similarities in the structure of these mortality and economic responses, along multiple dimensions, implicates the deterioration of economic conditions and subsequent disinvestments as the cause of mortality among female infants.  Bolstering this hypothesis, we find that mortality is highest in households where infant daughters face the greatest competition with other children for resources, particularly older brothers.  We estimate that these delayed deaths among female infants outnumber officially reported typhoon deaths in the general populace by a factor of fifteen.