The effects of earthquake exposure on preparedness in the short and long term: a difference-in-differences estimation


Emergency support is often delayed after a disaster. Despite the importance of being prepared to deal with the immediate aftermath of disasters, not everyone prepares effectively. While exposure to disasters improves people’s preparedness in the short term, it is yet to be determined whether this improvement is long lasting. In this paper, we use a difference-in-differences method to estimate the causal effects of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes on people’s preparedness in the short-term (1 month after the second earthquake) and long-term (up to 25 months after the second earthquake). Our results show that people who experienced the earthquakes increase their preparedness by 0.67 standard deviations in the short term. This impact stays positive, but declines to 0.42 standard deviations in the long term.

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  1. 1.

    Our measure does not include building-structure preparedness such as adherence to building codes.

  2. 2.

    To harmonize, we multiply the score of the households with “not applicable” answers (\(S_{na}\)) with 11 (the upper bound of the 12-point scale) and divide the result by the number of questions that were applicable (\(Q_{a}\)). For example, a household with nine “yes”, one “no”, and one “not applicable” answers has 10 applicable questions. Therefore, we calculate its preparedness score as \(\frac{{\left( {S_{na} *11} \right)}}{{Q_{a} }} = \frac{9*11}{{10}} = 9.9\).

  3. 3.

    The approach of difference-in-differences models is similar to the approach of fixed effects models. Both approaches exploit changes over time to difference out time constant factors. The key difference, however, is that fixed effects models require panel data and exploit changes at the individual level. In contrast, difference-in-differences models can be used with cross-sectional data and exploit changes at the group level.


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We thank Ilan Noy for helpful comments. Hanna also thanks the Resilience National Science Challenge for financial support.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hanna Habibi.

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The results in this paper are not official statistics. They have been created for research purposes from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) managed by Statistics New Zealand. The opinions, findings, recommendations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the authors, not Statistics NZ or Victoria University of Wellington. Access to the anonymized data used in this study was provided by Statistics NZ in accordance with security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975. Only people authorized by the Statistics Act 1975 are allowed to see data about a particular person, household, business, or organisation, and the results in this paper have been confidentialized to protect these groups from identification. Careful consideration has been given to the privacy, security, and confidentiality issues associated with using administrative and survey data in the IDI. Further detail can be found in the Privacy impact assessment for the Integrated Data Infrastructure available from

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See Tables 4, 5 and 6.

Table 4 Table of Modified Mercalli Index (MMI) Scale.
Table 5 Cronbach's alpha of the measure of preparedness
Table 6 Estimates for each preparedness activity

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Habibi, H., Feld, J. The effects of earthquake exposure on preparedness in the short and long term: a difference-in-differences estimation. Nat Hazards 104, 1443–1463 (2020).

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  • Natural hazards
  • Disasters
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Risk analysis
  • Risk management