Earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorism: Do natural disasters incite terror?

Claude Berrebi*, Jordan Ostwald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


A novel and important issue in contemporary security policy is the impact of natural disasters on terrorism. Natural disasters can strain a society and its government, creating vulnerabilities which terrorist groups might exploit. Using a structured methodology and detailed data on terrorism, disasters, and other relevant controls for 167 countries between 1970 and 2007, we find a strong positive impact of disaster-related deaths on subsequent terrorism incidence and fatalities. Furthermore, the effects differ by disaster type and GDP per capita. The results consistently are significant and robust across a multitude of disaster and terrorism measures for a diverse set of model specifications.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)383-403
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors are thankful for the excellent comments and suggestions received from Paul Heaton, Nicholas Burger, Dmitry Khodyakov, William Shughart, and the detailed reviews from the journal’s anonymous reviewers. In particular, the authors would like to thank Todd Sandler for his invaluable assistance and expertise. The authors are also appreciative for the numerous suggestions received from seminar and conference participants including those who attended the University of Texas at Dallas’s 2011 Terrorism and Policy Conference and the 86th Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International. Berrebi is grateful for the financial support from the Marie Curie reintegration grant funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme. Ostwald would like to thank RAND’s Project Air Force for its gracious fellowship support.


  • Disaster
  • Panel data
  • Terrorism


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