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Safety Nets and Natural Disaster Mitigation: Evidence from Cyclone Phailin in Odisha

June 7, 2018

World Bank Malaysia Office, Level 3, Sasana Kijang, No. 2, Jalan Dato’ Onn

  • To what degree can vulnerability to extreme weather events be mitigated by access to a rural livelihoods program, particularly with regard to the impacts on women? This paper addresses this question through a natural experiment arising from two independent but overlapping sources of variation: exposure to a devastating cyclone that occurred in the Bay of Bengal region of India and the staggered rollout of a rural livelihoods intervention. Comparisons from household surveys across communities more or less exposed to the storm before and after the introduction of the program reveal that the storm led to significant reductions in overall household expenditure, and that these reductions were indeed the largest for women, adding to the emerging evidence for the frequently-posed hypothesis that women bear the brunt of the effects of disasters on overall household consumption. Participation in the livelihoods program mitigated some of the reductions in household nonfood expenditure and women's consumption, but not on food expenditure. These results from a densely populated region whose topography makes it particularly vulnerable to storms can inform future policy approaches and aid in modeling the impact of these policies on the effects of climate change.

    Download the paper (.pdf)

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  • Vijayendra Rao

    Vijayendra Rao is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. He integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from anthropology, sociology and political science to study the social, cultural, and political context of extreme poverty in developing countries. Dr. Rao has published on a variety of subjects that include dowries and domestic violence in India, the economics of celebrations, sex work in Calcutta, participatory development, village democracy and deliberation, and inter-disciplinary approaches to public policy. He co-edited Culture and Public Action, and History, Historians and Development Policy, and co-authored the 2006 World Development Report on Equity and Development. Most recently, with Ghazala Mansuri, he co-authored the World Bank's Policy Research Report on Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? Dr. Rao obtained a BA (Economics, Statistics, Sociology) from St. Xavier's College - Bombay (now Mumbai), a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, was a post-doctoral fellow at the Economics Research Center and an Associate of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, and taught at the University of Michigan and Williams College before joining the World Bank's Research Department in 1999. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and is a member of the Successful Societies Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and affiliated with research institutes and NGOs in India, the US, and the UK.


  • when: Thursday, June 7, 2018; 12:30-2:00PM
  • where: World Bank Malaysia Office, Level 3, Sasana Kijang, No. 2, Jalan Dato’ Onn
  • rsvp: Kindly RSVP by Wednesday, June 6, 2018