Article | Journal of Conflict Resolution | December 2008

The Political Economy of 'Natural' Disasters

by Charles Cohen and Eric D. Werker


Natural disasters occur in a political space. Although events beyond our control may trigger a disaster, the level of government preparedness and response greatly determines the extent of suffering incurred by the affected population. We use a political economy model of disaster prevention, supported by case studies and preliminary empirics to explain why some governments prepare well for disasters and others do not. We show how the presence of international aid distorts this choice and increases the chance that governments will under-invest. Policy suggestions that may alleviate this problem are discussed.

Keywords: History; Demographics; Natural Disasters; Policy; Economy; Government and Politics;


Cohen, Charles, and Eric D. Werker. "The Political Economy of 'Natural' Disasters." Journal of Conflict Resolution 52, no. 6 (December 2008): 795–819.