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Natural Disasters, Risk-Salience, and Public Health

McCoy, Shawn (2016) Natural Disasters, Risk-Salience, and Public Health. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores the dynamic links between natural disasters, human decision making, and risk perceptions as well as the public health implications of wildfire. In Chapter 1, we develop a model that links underlying changes in location-specific risk perceptions to housing market dynamics. We apply the model's predictions to an empirical analysis of the influence of severe wildfires on housing markets. Interpreted in the context of the model, our empirical results suggest that the evolution of risk perceptions following a natural disaster depend both on the characteristics of the property (relationship to the disaster and latent risk) and the location of the individual whose risk perceptions we are considering (potential seller vs. potential buyer). In Chapter 2, we examine the relationship between hurricanes, the salience of flood risk, and residential property investment. Utilizing a difference-in-differences estimation strategy, we find a significant increase in the probability a homeowner invests in a damaged building located in a statutorily designated flood risk area. However, we find no change in the rate of property investment in damaged homes located outside of these areas. We estimate changes in households’ perceptions of risk by modeling relative changes in investment between properties in designated risk areas and properties directly outside of these zones restricting attention to the set of structures that failed to experience any damage by the storm. Model results suggest that a recent storm may elevate households' perceptions of flood risk; however, we show that the primary mechanism driving these changes is a household's exposure to storm damage. Finally, in Chapter 3 we estimate the effects of wildfire on infant health. Model results show that wildfires lead to a statistically significant 4% to 6% reduction in birthweight conditional on the mother being exposed in her second or third trimester and located inside a wildfire smoke plume or downwind of a wildfire burn area. We find no statistically significant effects of wildfire on the health of infants located more than 3 miles away from a burn scar, living outside of smoky areas, or upwind of a wildfire.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
McCoy, Shawnsjm96@pitt.eduSJM96
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWalsh, Randallwalshr@pitt.eduWALSHR
Committee MemberTroesken, Wernertroesken@pitt.eduTROESKEN
Committee MemberBeresteanu, Ariearie@pitt.eduARIE
Committee MemberWeber, Jeremyjgw99@pitt.eduJGW
Date: 7 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2016
Approval Date: 7 June 2016
Submission Date: 12 April 2016
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 130
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Economics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Natural Disasters, Wildfire, Risk-Salience, Public Health
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 16:46
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2021 05:15


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