January 27, 2022: Paul Frijters (London School of Economics)
Wellbeing and Religious Behaviour During and After Natural Disasters
Abstract: As the severity and frequency of natural disasters become more pronounced with climate change and the increased habitation of at-risk areas, it is important to understand how people react to them. This presentation combines two papers on that general topic. We look at natural disasters in the US in a sample of 2.2 million observations, allowing for individual- and county-level factors. The event-study design contrasts changes in outcomes in counties affected by disasters with that of residents in unaffected counties of the same state. In the first paper we look at psychological resilience during and after disasters, measured by changes in hedonic wellbeing. We find that people’s hedonic wellbeing is reduced by approximately 6% of a standard deviation in the first two weeks following the event, with the effect diminishing rapidly thereafter. The negative effects are driven by White, older, and economically advantaged sub-populations, who exhibit less resilience. We find no evidence that existing indices of community resilience moderate impacts. In the second paper we look at religious observances during natural disasters and afterwards. We find that individuals reduce the time spent on prayer during disasters and then rapidly return to baseline, with no indication of sustained changes.