Burning down the house: Wildfire and the benefits of natural disaster response

Salience and the government provision of public goods (with Sarah Anderson and Andrew Plantinga)

This paper examines the consequences of salience for the government provision of public goods. Salience is a common behavioral bias whereby people’s attention is drawn to salient features of a decision problem, leading them to overweight prominent information in subsequent judgments. We analyze the case in which the public’s demand for the good is distorted by salient events, and explore how salience influences public good allocation and efficiency. Theoretical predictions regarding public good allocation are ambiguous and depend on the magnitude of the change in payoffs and the extent of salience effects. We test whether salience increases or decreases allocation of government projects to reduce wildfi re severity near wildland-adjacent communities. Even though the occurrence of a wild fire likely reduces the severity of future fires in the same area, it may increase the likelihood that fuels management projects are placed nearby if wild fire events strongly increase the salience of losses under future fires. We find strong evidence that the salience effects increase the likelihood of fuels management projects, and use robustness checks to eliminate competing explanations for our results. Our salience framework may also other insights into government responses to terrorism, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and environmental catastrophes.

The dangers of disaster-driven responses to climate change(with Sarah Anderson, Ryan Bart, Maureen Kennedy, Andrew MacDonald, Max Moritz, Andrew Plantinga, Christina Tague, and Ethan Turpin, published in Nature Climate Change, Vol. 8, No. 8, 2018)

Risk preferences, probability weighting, and strategy tradeoffs in wildfire management (with Michael S. Hand, David E. Calkin, and Matthew P. Thompson, published in Risk Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 10, 2015)

Risk preferences in strategic wildfire decision making: A choice experiment with U.S. wildfire managers (with Michael S. Hand, David E. Calkin, Tyron J. Venn, and Matthew P. Thompson, published in Risk Analysis, Vol. 33, No. 6, 2013)

Estimating US federal wildland fire managers’ preferences toward competing strategic suppression objectives (with David E. Calkin, Tyron J. Venn, and Matthew P. Thompson, published in International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 22, No. 6, 2013)