Quantifying the economic impact of disasters on businesses using human mobility data: a Bayesian causal inference approach
Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Avenue, 47907, West Lafayette, USA
Accepted: 25 November 2020
Published online: 3 December 2020
In recent years, extreme shocks, such as natural disasters, are increasing in both frequency and intensity, causing significant economic loss to many cities around the world. Quantifying the economic cost of local businesses after extreme shocks is important for post-disaster assessment and pre-disaster planning. Conventionally, surveys have been the primary source of data used to quantify damages inflicted on businesses by disasters. However, surveys often suffer from high cost and long time for implementation, spatio-temporal sparsity in observations, and limitations in scalability. Recently, large scale human mobility data (e.g. mobile phone GPS) have been used to observe and analyze human mobility patterns in an unprecedented spatio-temporal granularity and scale. In this work, we use location data collected from mobile phones to estimate and analyze the causal impact of hurricanes on business performance. To quantify the causal impact of the disaster, we use a Bayesian structural time series model to predict the counterfactual performances of affected businesses (what if the disaster did not occur?), which may use performances of other businesses outside the disaster areas as covariates. The method is tested to quantify the resilience of 635 businesses across 9 categories in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Furthermore, hierarchical Bayesian models are used to reveal the effect of business characteristics such as location and category on the long-term resilience of businesses. The study presents a novel and more efficient method to quantify business resilience, which could assist policy makers in disaster preparation and relief processes.
Key words: Disaster resilience / Mobile phones / Human mobility / Causal inference
© The Author(s) 2020
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