Adapting to flood danger: Proof from international cities


Sahil Gandhi, Matthew Kahn, Rajat Kochhar, Somik Lall, Vaidehi Tandel 01 August 2022

The main floods in India and Australia in 2022 have as soon as once more drawn consideration to the damaging capability of disasters. Local weather change is prone to enhance the frequency and depth of those shocks. On the identical time, the power to deal with disasters will differ extensively throughout locations and over time. The residing situations of households in India are very totally different from these in Australia. In India, a big proportion of city households dwell in slums on hillslopes or different unsafe areas. The affect of comparable disasters could be totally different for the 2 nations. Given {that a} majority of individuals world wide now dwell in cities, it is very important measure the vulnerability and adaptive capability of such productive areas to disasters.

Cities in growing nations endure extra

Analysis on the affect of utmost climate predicts that the growing world, particularly the poor and weak populations, can be disproportionately affected (Mendelsohn et al. 2000, Mendelsohn et al. 2006, Tol 2009).

In our new paper (Gandhi et al. 2022), we use information on floods for 9,468 cities in 175 nations to look at the differential affect of floods on cities in high- and low-income nations. We mix month-to-month night time gentle (VIIRS) information for these cities from 2012 to 2018 with a worldwide dataset of geocoded disasters. Determine 1 exhibits that after a flood occasion, night time lights fall after which recuperate. Floods disrupt life in cities by means of non permanent energy failures, disruption of important providers, injury to property, and non permanent closure of places of work and factories. These are mirrored within the lights seen at night time (Kocornik-Mina et al. 2016).

Determine 1 Night time lights earlier than and after floods in Chennai, India: 2015–16

Word: Chennai suffered from main floods between November and December 2015.

We check whether or not cities that face repeated flooding in 1970–2010 (known as dangerous cities) had a decrease demise toll because of floods. We posit that cities that confronted repeated flooding adapt and change into extra resilient to the destruction brought on by the flood occasions. 

We discover proof of such adaptation for dangerous cities in high-income nations; these cities noticed fewer deaths per catastrophe in 2010–2018. In distinction, cities in low-income nations that had skilled repeated flooding previously noticed greater deaths per catastrophe. Therefore, cities in developed nations have been extra profitable in mitigating the human destruction brought on by floods.

Determine 2 The demise toll in cities in high-income and low-income nations

Notes: The black circles depict the coefficient estimates, which present the connection between the variety of excessive rainfall occasions (1970–2010) in cities on deaths per catastrophe (2010–2018) for cities in low-income, high-income, and all nations. Coefficients to the precise of 0 on the x-axis point out a optimistic relationship and coefficients to the left of 0 point out a detrimental relationship. The dashed traces present the 95% confidence interval. The complete outcomes and outline can be found in Desk 3 in Gandhi et al. (2022).

We additionally doc that cities in growing nations endure higher short-term financial injury because of floods relative to cities in developed nations. We discover that, on common, floods result in a decline in imply night time lights in cities by round 3%. Lastly, we discover that restoration is quicker in high-income nations relative to low-income nations; cities in high-income nations see financial exercise attain pre-flood ranges in a single month, whereas it takes two months for full restoration in cities in low-income nations.

Determine 3 Affect of floods on night time lights in cities in high-income and low-income nations

Notes: The black circles depict the coefficient estimates, which present the connection between floods and night time lights for cities in low-income, high-income, and all nations. Coefficients to the precise of 0 on the x-axis point out a optimistic relationship and coefficients to the left of 0 point out a detrimental relationship. The dashed traces present the 95% confidence interval. The complete outcomes and outline can be found in Desk 5 in Gandhi et al.(2022).

Adaptation to flood shocks

Adaptation investments can replicate decisions by people, reminiscent of emigrate to a safer place, or by governments, reminiscent of to put money into land-use planning and protecting infrastructure. An rising literature explores the causes and penalties of such methods. Migration out of dangerous locations is a key technique (Desmet et al. 2018), as has been discovered within the case of tornados-affected areas (Boustan et al. 2012) and hurricanes (Strobl 2011) within the US. 

Nonetheless, latest analysis means that post-disaster authorities reduction (Henket at al. 2022) or excessive prices related to migration in low-income nations (Cattaneo and Peri 2016, Peri and Sasahara 2019) discourage individuals from shifting to safer locations. Utilizing a dataset of main floods principally in growing nations, Kocornik-Mina et al. (2016) discover that financial exercise doesn’t relocate to safer areas. Our examine additionally finds no proof of a decline in inhabitants development for cities in low-income nations that confronted repeated flooding previously.

Richer locations which have the sources and infrastructure to deal with disasters are usually extra resilient. Utilizing metropolis GDP, we discover that inside the identical nation, high-income and middle-income cities endure much less short-term financial injury within the aftermath of floods relative to low-income cities. This city-level proof from the interval between 2012 and 2018 helps the declare that financial productiveness performs a causal function in mitigating the injury from Mom Nature’s more and more robust punches.

Different elements – reminiscent of investments in flood-protection measures like levees and dams or the standard of a nation’s political establishments – are prone to play a job in attenuating the affect of floods. For 3,820 cities in China, India, Mexico, and the US, we use a geocoded dataset of enormous dams and determine which cities are inside 100 kilometres downstream from a dam and are thus protected by at the least one dam. We discover that cities protected by dams see lesser disruption of financial exercise, as measured by night time lights throughout floods, relative to cities that wouldn’t have such safety.


Flooding is a vital kind of catastrophe that creates basic measurement challenges in figuring out the geography of areas that really flood. We invested the effort and time to create a standardised international metropolis panel information set that features all the main flood occasions for 9,468 cities throughout 175 nations.

Utilizing an event-study framework, we doc how the demise toll from flooding and financial exercise (as measured by lights at night time) are affected by such shocks. Our new empirical work helps the declare that financial growth performs a central function in fuelling local weather resilience. Housing high quality and the housing consumption of poor individuals versus richer individuals provide one channel for explaining the function of earnings in insulating one from danger (Brueckner 2013).

We additionally chart a course for additional analysis to grasp the interaction between personal methods of self-protection, market insurance coverage, authorities motion within the type of funding in native public items, and public insurance coverage that in the end determines a inhabitants’s publicity to climate-change-related disasters.


Boustan, L P, M E Kahn and P W Rhode (2012), “Transferring to greater floor: Migration response to pure disasters within the early twentieth century”, American Financial Evaluation 102: 238–44.

Brueckner, J Ok (2013), “Slums in growing nations: New proof for Indonesia”, Journal of Housing Economics 22(4): 278–90.

Cattaneo, C, and G Peri (2016), “The migration response to rising temperatures”, Journal of Improvement Economics 122: 127–46.

Desmet, Ok, D Ok Nagy and E Rossi-Hansberg (2018), “Adapt or be flooded”,, 2 October. 

Gandhi, S, M Kahn, R Kocchar, S Lall and V Tandel (2022), “Adapting to flood danger: Proof from a panel of worldwide cities”, NBER Working Paper 30137.

Kocornik-Mina, A, T McDermott, G Michaels and F Rauch (2016), “Do floods shift financial exercise to safer areas?”,, 21 January. 

Mendelsohn, R, A Dinar and L Williams (2006), “The distributional affect of local weather change on wealthy and poor nations”, Atmosphere and Improvement Economics 11: 159–78.

Mendelsohn, R, W Morrison, M E Schlesinger and N G Andronova (2000), “Nation-specific market impacts of local weather change”, Climatic Change 45: 553–69.

Peri, G, and A Sasahara (2019), “The affect of worldwide warming on rural-urban migrations: Proof from international massive information”, NBER Working Paper 25728.

Strobl, E (2011), “The financial development affect of hurricanes: Proof from US coastal counties”, Evaluation of Economics and Statistics 93: 575–89.

Tol, R S (2009), “The financial results of local weather change”, Journal of Financial Views 23: 29–51.



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