Friday, May 24, 2013
The above comes from Kahn, M. The Death Toll From Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions and is rather out of date (only through 2002, which misses a lot of really big natural disasters in the last decade). If anyone knows of a more recent plot, please point me there. The chart shows the expected relationship between income (x-axis, log scale) and deaths (y-axis): rich countries have better infrastructure and institutions and therefore when disaster strikes, the carnage level is a lot lower.
If anything, the relationship is weaker than I expected, though it would probably look more pronounced with a linear scale on the x-axis rather than log. It's significant that no developed country lost more than a couple of hundred people in any disaster between 1980 and 2002.
It wasn't a natural disaster, but I wonder if this isn't important background to 9/11 - contributing to the sense of outrage that losing ~3000 people in a single event just isn't something that happens in wealthy countries.
Note that this is relevant to the point I made in this post: one should be careful extrapolating past civilization collapse experiences to modern society because we are running on much higher levels of economic surplus, and this makes us more resilient to at least certain kinds of threats (like natural disasters).