Adapting to Flood Risk: Evidence from a Panel of Global Cities
Urban flooding poses danger to people and places. People can adapt to this risk by moving to safer areas or by investing in private self-protection. Places can offset some of the risk through urban planning and infrastructure investment. By constructing a global city data set that covers the years 2012 to 2018, we test several flood risk adaptation hypotheses. Population growth is lower in cities that suffer from more floods. Richer cities suffer fewer deaths from flood events. Over time, the death toll from floods is declining. Cities protected by dams experience faster population growth. Using lights at night to measure short run urban economic dynamics, we document that floods cause less damage to richer cities and cities with protective dams. Cities with more past experience with floods suffer less from flooding.
The authors thank and acknowledge financial support from the World Bank though its Vibrant Cities project as well as the UK FCDO’s program on Climate Compatible Economic Growth. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, nor those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent, nor those of the National Bureau of Economic Research. We thank Adam Dessouky, Nadia Filanovsky, Xiaoqian Zhang, Suyang Wang, Yang Peng, David Krieger, Lepakshi Poonamallee, Michael Pennypacker, Emma Cockerell, Kelvin Almeida, and Divyam Jindal for excellent research assistance. We also thank Forhad Shilpi, Sameh Wahba, Niels Holms Neilson, and participants at the USC Environmental Economics Reading Group for constructive comments.