Did Hurricane Katrina Reduce Mortality?

21 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2021

See all articles by Robert Kaestner

Robert Kaestner

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 28, 2020


In a recent article in the American Economic Review, Tatyana Deryugina and David Molitor (DM) analyzed the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the mortality of elderly and disabled residents of New Orleans. The authors concluded that Hurricane Katrina improved the eight-year survival rate of elderly and disabled residents of New Orleans by 3% and that most of this decline in mortality was due to declines in mortality among those who moved to places with lower mortality. In this article, I provide a critical assessment of the evidence provided by DM to support their conclusions. There are three main problems. First, DM generally fail to account for the fact that people of different ages, races or sex will have different probabilities of dying as time goes by, and when they do allow for this, results change markedly. Second, DM do not account for the fact that residents in New Orleans are likely to be selected non-randomly on the basis of health because of the relatively high mortality rate in New Orleans compared to the rest of the country. Third, there is considerable evidence that among those who moved from New Orleans, the destination chosen was non-random. Finally, DM never directly assessed changes in mortality of those who moved, or stayed, in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. These problems lead me to conclude that the evidence presented by DM does not support their inferences.

Keywords: Mortality, Health Production, Migration

JEL Classification: I12, Q51, Q54, R23

Suggested Citation

Kaestner, Robert and Kaestner, Robert, Did Hurricane Katrina Reduce Mortality? (November 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3739016 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3739016

Robert Kaestner (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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