Migration as a Vector of Economic Losses from Disaster-Affected Areas in the United States


In this paper, we infuse consideration of migration into research on economic losses from extreme weather disasters. Taking a comparative case study approach and using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel, we document the size of economic losses via migration from 23 disaster-affected areas in the United States after the most damaging hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires on record. We then employ demographic standardization and decomposition to determine if these losses primarily reflect changes in out-migration or changes in the economic resources that migrants take with them (greater economic losses per migrant). Finally, we consider the implications of these losses for changing spatial inequality in the United States. While disaster-affected areas and those living in them differ in their experiences of and responses to extreme weather disasters, we generally find that, relative to the year before an extreme weather disaster, economic losses via migration from disaster-affected areas increase the year of and after the disaster, that these changes primarily reflect changes in out-migration (vs. the economic resources that migrants take with them), and that these losses briefly disrupt the status quo by temporarily reducing spatial inequality.

Keywords: Natural Disaster, Migration, Consumer Credit, Decomposition, Spatial Inequality.
JEL codes: R23, Q54, D12, J60.


Suggested citation: DeWaard, Jack, Elizabeth Fussell, Katherine J. Curtis, Stephan D. Whitaker, Kathryn McConnell, Kobie Price, Catalina Anampa Castro, and Michael Soto. 2021. "Migration as a Vector of Economic Losses from Disaster-Affected Areas in the United States." Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 21-22. https://doi.org/10.26509/frbc-wp-202122.