Defining economic recovery

An application of the synthetic control method

Authored by: Ryan Levitt , Sammy Zahran

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138306875
eBook ISBN: 9781315142074
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter utilizes the case study of Hurricane Katrina to explore varying definitions of disaster recovery. We compare three recovery thresholds: (1) return to pre-disaster levels, (2) recuperation of incurred losses, and (3) return to a counterfactual trend. These definitions are illustrated with analyses of total employment in four Louisiana parishes impacted by Katrina. To estimate counterfactual trajectories of each parish, we employ the synthetic control method. This method results in an estimate of what total employment would have been had the hurricane not occurred. Results showcase differences in competing definitions, as well noteworthy variation across damaged communities. When controlling for housing damage, cross-community differences largely dissipate. Extensions may include applying this framework to a diverse group of impacted areas and using variation in recovery experiences to help identify factors that govern community resilience.

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