Weathering storms : understanding the impact of natural disasters on the poor in Central America

In the past decades, natural disasters have caused substantial human and economic losses in Central America, with strong adverse impacts on gross domestic product per capita, income, and poverty reduction. This study provides a regional perspective on the impact of hurricane windstorms on socioeconomic measures in the short term. Apart from modeling the socioeconomic impact at the macro and micro levels, the study incorporates and juxtaposes data from a hurricane windstorm model categorizing three hurricane damage indexes, which lends a higher level of detail, nuance, and therefore accuracy and comprehensiveness to the study. One standard deviation in the intensity of a hurricane windstorm leads to a decrease in growth of total per capita gross domestic product of between 0.9 and 1.6 percent, and a decrease in total income and labor income by 3 percent, which in turn increases moderate and extreme poverty by 1.5 percentage points. These results demonstrate the causal relationship between hurricane windstorm impacts and poverty in Central America, producing regional evidence that could improve targeting of disaster risk management policies toward those most impacted and thus whose needs are greatest.