The Political Economy of Urban Reconstruction, Development and Planning

Emily Schaeffer

Advisor: Peter Boettke

Committee Members: Peter Leeson, Virgil Storr

Mercatus Center, Liberty Rm
March 31, 2009, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


When natural disasters level urban areas, how do governments and civil society respond and what are the implications of various responses for economic recovery and growth? This dissertation approaches these issues in three parts. The first chapter is a comparative analysis of incentives facing groups responsible for reconstruction following the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the Chicago Fire of 1871 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.The findings suggest that federal emergency management lacks adequate incentives and information required for an effective recovery. The second chapter is a case study of urban planning of low-income housing before and after Hurricane Katrina. This paper argues that public bureaucrats face insurmountable knowledge problems when attempting to coordinate human capital investment. The final chapter investigates the role of private bureaucracy in reconstruction efforts following the Chicago Fire of 1871. A novel archival data set provides evidence of the operation of private bureaucracy. The findings suggest that public administration of disaster recovery is not a necessary condition for successful recovery following natural disasters.