WWP: Ocean risks

Maybe I have holdover inspiration from my weekend in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but this week's WWP features two papers that are forthcoming in the AEJ: Applied (but not out yet - so I can still count them as working papers, right? Okay, maybe not, but at the very least, they're new work!) with oceanic themes. 

The first is a really cool new paper by Sebastian Axbard, a PhD candidate at Uppsala University in Sweden (turns out he was also a visiting scholar here at Berkeley a few years ago. I swear I didn't know until after I found the paper!). Axbard combines two of my favorite topics: piracy (or crime) and environmental (climate) economics. His paper uses some neat new remote sensed data on sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a concentrations to construct a measure of fishing conditions, which he then combines with fish market price data, labor outcomes from one of Indonesia's (many great) datasets, SAKERNAS, and finally, geocoded piracy data. He uses exogenous variation in fishing to show that piracy responds to local incomes, and then goes on to show that a military exercise targeted at piracy (which is called, I kid you not, Operation Octopus !!!!!) did reduce attacks. He finds that the operation had a strong effect on piracy in locations with bad fishing conditions, but that the effects persist in time more effectively when the military operation is accompanied by good fishing conditions (and therefore, we surmise, a good outside option for these potential pirates). This paper is super cool - here's Axbard's abstract:

The effect of climatic variation on conflict and crime is well established, but less is known about the mechanism through which this effect operates. This study contributes to the literature by exploiting a new source of exogenous variation in climate to study the effect of fishermen’s income opportunities on sea piracy. Using satellite data to construct a monthly measure of local fishing conditions it is found that better income opportunities reduce piracy. A wide range of approaches are employed to ensure that these effects are driven by income opportunities rather than other mechanisms through which climate could affect piracy.

The most recent ungated copy of the paper I could find is here

Cool display of the attacks (red dots) and fishing conditions (blue squares) from Axbard's paper. From Figure 5. 

Cool display of the attacks (red dots) and fishing conditions (blue squares) from Axbard's paper. From Figure 5. 

This week's second paper is also about the ocean - sort of (okay, this is a little bit of a stretch - but typhoons come from the ocean, so I'm going to claim that this post is cohesive). André Gröger at Goethe Universitaet Frankfurt and Yanos Zylberberg at Bristol also use remote sensed data, this time to look at the effect of a huge typhoon in Vietnam on migration. These guys use satellite information on coastal inundation (I had to look this up - NOAA's definition is "Water covering normally dry land is a condition known as inundation"), which they construct from MODIS images, which they match to another great Vietnamese panel dataset. They find that the typhoon caused a large decrease in incomes in affected areas, and households respond by sending migrants out of the home, or for homes that already have a migrant, seeing increased remittances from their migrant. The body of work so far on migration as a response to (climatic) shocks is small, but rapidly growing - this is a really cool new addition. The authors themselves write:

We analyze how internal labor migration facilitates shock coping in rural economies. Employing high precision satellite data, we identify objective variations in the inundations generated by a catastrophic typhoon in Vietnam and match them with household panel data before and after the shock. We find that, following a massive drop in income, households cope mainly through labor migration to urban areas. Households with settled migrants ex-ante receive more remittances. Nonmigrant households react by sending new members away who then remit similar amounts than established migrants. This mechanism is most effective with long-distance migration, while local networks fail to provide insurance.

 I again found an ungated copy here

Again, more awesome satellite data. Figure 2 from the Gröger and Zylberberg paper.

Again, more awesome satellite data. Figure 2 from the Gröger and Zylberberg paper.

Really excited to see remote sensing data being used in (soon-to-be) published papers! I consider myself lucky to be an economist now in our current era of amazing data availability - and it gets better every day. I hope that in a few years I'll look back at this blog post and laugh at what I used to think was data abundance.