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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractNatural disasters present a considerable threat to the welfare of society. This is especially true for growing coastal populations facing stronger and more frequent hurricanes. In response, special building codes in the US are now available through the International Code Council (ICC) that mandate technology like reinforced roof-to-wall connections in new coastal homes ex-ante, and ex-post aid programs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have grown tremendously. However, despite their critical roles, ICC codes have only been fully adopted by one state, Florida, while others debate their costs and market alternatives. There also remain salient concern over the equitable distribution of FEMA aid for which the literature struggles to untangle. This dissertation asks whether hazard-resistant building code institutions hold legitimizing public values outside of the market, in particular the ability to sidestep damage associated with behavioral bias, internalize physical externalities, and attenuate long run recovery for low-income households. In addition, I argue that our current understanding of equity in ex-post aid is limited by geographic and program aggregation, and ask whether FEMA’s Blue Roof Program, which installs temporary roofs following a hurricane, contribute to class and race-based disparities at the program-property level. Employing a novel property-level dataset on damages over time derived from remotely sensed images of Bay County Florida following Hurricane Michael, I find strong evidence that hazard-resistant codes reduced roof damage through improved preparedness, spill over beyond the individual to protect nearby homes from debris, and attenuated long recoveries---especially in low-income areas. This implies that places exposed to similar disaster risk, but resist modern code institutions, may miss welfare gains and a considerable opportunity to protect their most vulnerable populations. Second, I find that FEMA’s Blue Roof Program prioritizes homes with larger roofs, likely due to associated private contract incentives. However, market alternatives appear to perform worse along these dimensions, and neither arrangement discriminated along indicators of class or race such as home value and percent non-white.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Government and Public Policy