Earthquakes Cost More in Rich Countries but Devastate Poor Ones

Barrels are strewn about inside the storage room of Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa, Calif., on Aug. 24 Photograph by Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Northern California suffered its strongest earthquake in 25 years on Sunday, and although 120 people were injured, not a single fatality was reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey put initial estimates of economic losses at $1 billion. Both the low human cost and high economic cost illustrate constants in natural disasters: They are far more expensive—and far less deadly—in rich countries.

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