In the wake of a natural disaster, donation decisions aren’t clear-cut

Ars Technica:

On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines, leaving a trail of disaster in its wake. Since then, private donors, nonprofits, and governments from around the world have pledged tens of millions of dollars to assist survivors and help rebuild the storm-stricken nation.

But understanding which disasters get relief is a tricky business, and donation-related decisions aren’t well understood. A new study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that donors may be focusing on misleading measures when they decide how much to give—or whether to give at all.

Generally, media coverage of natural disasters gives two types of figures related to the victims: the number of fatalities and the number of people “affected.” This second figure includes those that are “requiring immediate assistance during a period of emergency,” according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

In a perfectly rational world, humanitarian aid should arguably be based on the number of people affected by the disaster rather than the number of people who died as a result of the disaster. But as Ioannis Evangelidis and Bram Van den Bergh report, people tend to base their donation-related decisions on the number of fatalities caused by a natural disaster rather than the number of surviving people who may need help.

Read the whole story: Ars Technica

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