Equity Analysis and Natural Hazards Policy
ON RISK AND DISASTER: LESSONS FROM HURRICANE KATRINA, Ronald Daniels, Howard Kunreuther, Donald Kettl, eds., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006
40 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2005
What is an "equitable" policy for mitigating the impacts of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural hazards? Economists tend to see "equity" or "distribution" as irreducibly political and subjective. But, in truth, equity analysis and cost-benefit analysis are on a par. Both require a normative justification. Moreover, normative argument can help us structure equity analysis, just as it can help structure cost-benefit analysis.
This chapter, written for a forthcoming book on natural hazards policy after Katrina, argues that equity is a normative consideration distinct from efficiency or overall well-being. It then argues that equity is: individualistic, not group-based; ex post, not ex ante; that the "currency" for equity consists in the multiple dimensions of well-being, not income or longevity; and that, at a minimum, equity analysis should be concerned to avoid serious deprivations with respect to any well-being dimension. The upshot is an account with a close affinity to an emerging body of scholarship in development economics, inspired by Amartya Sen's work on capabilities and functionings; and a set of concrete recommendations for how equity analysis of natural hazards policy should be structured.
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