Prompt evacuation is essential to survival from natural disasters, but the mechanisms behind individuals’ decisions to evacuate are not well understood. Using unique survey data collected from cyclone-affected households in Bangladesh, we examine the association between social capital and the decision to evacuate. Given the difficulty in controlling for endogeneity of self-reported social capital, we employ the approach of Oster (2017) to assess the severity of omitted variable bias.
We find that those with higher social capital are more likely to evacuate. This is because they perceive a lower risk of theft during evacuation, suggesting that social capital compensates for the lack of a well-functioning law enforcement authority. Further, we cannot rule out the possibility that social capital strengthens the effectiveness of an early warning system. These findings could also contribute to our understanding of the interactive roles of communities and institutions during natural disasters.
Keywords: social capital, natural disasters, evacuation, Bangladesh, Cyclone Aila