Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1137–1180 | Cite as

How natural disasters can affect environmental concerns, risk aversion, and even politics: evidence from Fukushima and three European countries

  • Jan Goebel
  • Christian Krekel
  • Tim Tiefenbach
  • Nicolas R. ZiebarthEmail author
Original Paper


We study the impact of the Fukushima disaster on environmental concerns, well-being, risk aversion, and political preferences in Germany, Switzerland, and the UK. In these countries, overall life satisfaction did not significantly decrease, but the disaster significantly increased environmental concerns among Germans. One underlying mechanism likely operated through the perceived risk of a similar meltdown of domestic reactors. After Fukushima, more Germans considered themselves as “very risk averse.” However, drastic German policy action shut down the oldest reactors, implemented the phaseout of the remaining ones, and proclaimed the transition to renewables. This shift in energy policy contributed to the subsequent decrease in environmental concerns, particularly among women, Green party supporters, and people living in close distance to the oldest reactors. In Germany, political support for the Greens increased significantly, whereas in Switzerland and the UK, this increase was limited to people living close to reactors.


Fukushima Nuclear phaseout Environmental concerns Well-being Risk aversion Green party 

JEL Classification

I18 I31 Q54 



The authors thank the anonymous reviewers, the editor Erdal Tekin, Silke Anger, Peter Eibich, Ronny Freier, Jan Marcus, Jürgen Schupp, Gert G. Wagner, Michael Weinhardt, and participants at the European Economic Association Annual Meeting 2014, Toulouse, the International Association for Applied Econometrics Annual Meeting 2014, London, the European Society for Population Economics Annual Meeting 2014, Braga, the European Public Choice Society Annual Meeting 2014, Cambridge, and the “Public Finances and Living Conditions” Cluster Seminar at DIW Berlin. A special thank goes to Adam Lederer and Eric Maroney for an excellent editing of this paper and to Aline Passlack for an excellent research assistance. The authors take responsibility for all remaining errors in and shortcomings of this article.

Supplementary material

148_2015_558_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (147 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 146 kb)
148_2015_558_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (841 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 841 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Goebel
    • 1
  • Christian Krekel
    • 1
  • Tim Tiefenbach
    • 2
  • Nicolas R. Ziebarth
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP)DIW Berlin (German Institute for Economic Research)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ Tokyo)Chiyoda-kuJapan
  3. 3.Policy Analysis and Management (PAM)Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  4. 4.IZA BonnBonnGermany

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