Taken by Storm: Business Financing and Survival in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

We use Hurricane Katrina’s damage to the Mississippi coast in 2005 as a natural experiment to study business survival in the aftermath of a capital-destruction shock. We find very low survival rates for businesses that incurred physical damage, particularly for small firms and less-productive establishments. Conditional on survival, larger and more-productive businesses that rebuilt their operations hired more workers than their smaller and less-productive counterparts. Auxiliary evidence from the Survey of Business Owners suggests that the differential size effect is tied to the presence of financial constraints, pointing to a socially inefficient level of exits and to distortions of allocative efficiency in response to this negative shock. Over time, the size advantage disappeared and market mechanisms seem to prevail.

15. November 2018

Authors Emek Basker Javier Miranda

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