The long-term effect of natural disasters: health and education in Guatemala after the 1976 earthquake

Available from: 
October 2013
Paper author(s): 
Priscila Hermida (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador)
Topic: 
Education - Health
Environmental Economics
Year: 
2013


This paper provides causal evidence of the long-term effects of the earthquake that hit Guatemala in 1976 on the educational attainment and adult height of Guatemalan children. I combine a unique Department-level dataset on the percentage of schools destroyed, and the percentage of people made homeless by the disaster, with individual survey data from the 2000 National Living Conditions Survey (ENCOVI). The identification strategy exploits the plausibly exogenous Department-by-cohort variation in the intensity of destruction as a unique quasi-experiment. The findings suggest significant, long-lasting detrimental effects on human capital outcomes of individuals who were in early childhood, or of school-going age, in February 1976. These children have respectively 0.2 and 0.4 fewer years of schooling on average in adulthood per each additional SD in earthquake’s intensity. Females aged 4 to 9 have 0.53 fewer years. Children of unskilled workers and educated mothers experience bigger losses in years of completed schooling. The earthquake also had an effect on adult height. There is a clear parental education gradient of the earthquake’s impact, even after controlling for socioeconomic background. The gradient is gender specific. These results show natural disasters are not gender neutral, can have long-term consequences on human capital formation, and can aggravate gender inequality.

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Research section: 
Lacea 2013 annual meeting
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