Posted: 22 Jun 2006 Last revised: 28 Jul 2010
Date Written: June 1, 2006
Could bad weather be responsible for U.S. corruption? Natural disasters create resource windfalls in the states they strike by triggering federally-provided natural disaster relief. Like windfalls created by the natural resource curse and foreign aid, disaster relief windfalls may also increase corruption. We investigate this hypothesis by exploring the effect of FEMA-provided disaster relief on public corruption. The results support our hypothesis. Each additional $1 per capita in average annual FEMA relief increases corruption nearly 2.5 percent in the average state. Eliminating FEMA disaster relief would reduce corruption more than 20 percent in the average state. Our findings suggest that notoriously corrupt regions of the United States, such as the Gulf Coast, are notoriously corrupt because natural disasters frequently strike them. They attract more disaster relief making them more corrupt.
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