Earthquakes don't kill, built environment does: Evidence from cross-country data
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V.
Earthquakes are often attributed to a myriad of human casualties, but its variation is quite remarkable across countries. This paper first presents a conceptual analysis to understand why earthquake casualties vary across countries. After that, using a rich panel dataset of countries observed over half a century, from 1950 to 2009, this paper provides empirical evidence that the middle-income countries are more susceptible to earthquake casualties because of its higher level of vulnerable buildings relative to the low- and high-income countries. This finding retains its robustness when I use different income-based criteria of country classification, control for earthquake probabilities, capture institutional effects, and devise alternative specifications. The results suggest that the governments can significantly reduce earthquake casualties by emphasising on the quality—rather than quantity—of built environment through enforcing quake-resistant regulations.
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