Impact of natural disasters on income inequality in Sri Lanka

Subhani Keerthiratne*, Richard S.J. Tol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

We explore the relationship between natural disasters and income inequality in Sri Lanka as the first study of this nature for the country. The analysis uses a unique panel data set constructed for the purpose of this paper. It contains district inequality measures based on household income reported in six waves of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey of Sri Lanka during the period between 1990 and 2013, data on disaster affected population and other economic and social indicators. Employing a panel fixed effects estimator, we find that contemporaneous natural disasters and their immediate lags significantly and substantially decrease inequality in per adult equivalent household income as measured by the Theil index. Findings are robust across various inequality metrics, sub-samples and alternative estimators such as Ordinary Least Squares and System GMM. However, natural disasters do not affect household expenditure inequality. Either households behave as if they have a permanent income or all households reduce their expenditure proportionately irrespective of their income level in responding to natural disasters. Natural disasters decrease non-seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural income inequality but increase seasonal agricultural income inequality. Income of richer households is mainly derived from non-agricultural sources such as manufacturing and business activities and non-seasonal agricultural activities. Poorer households have a higher share of agricultural income.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalWorld Development
Volume105
Early online date3 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • Economic impact
  • Income inequality
  • Natural disasters

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