Disaster Risk Management Lab

In the face of escalating losses from natural and man-made hazards, the Disaster Risk Management Lab undertakes research on risk financing and risk reduction strategies.  Ongoing projects examine the functioning of disaster insurance markets, innovative risk transfer products, the design and impact of government disaster aid programs, post-disaster credit markets, and public-private partnerships to ensure equitable financial recovery for all households.  Work also seeks to advance smart development, cost-effective building codes, and improved infrastructure decisions.

Flood Insurance

The Wharton Risk Center has ongoing research on a range of aspects of flood insurance in the United States including risk communication, financing catastrophic losses, the private market, affordability, and flood risk-reduction.

Risk Transfer for Climate Adaptation

Climate change is increasing the risks of weather-related disasters.  Ongoing projects are investigating how innovations in risk transfer can help promote climate adaptation in communities throughout the US, particularly in a coastal context.

Wildfire Risk Management

The costs emanating from a wildfire can be broad and impact many sectors.  Ongoing Risk Center projects are examining the economic impacts of wildfires on municipalities, as well as sources of financial recovery.

Federal Disaster Aid

The Wharton Risk Center examines the disaster assistance policies and their impacts on households, communities, and federal taxpayers. We are exploring policies to enhance equitable recovery and building back better.

Community-Based Insurance for Natural Disasters

The Wharton Risk Center has partnered with Marsh & McLennan Advantage to develop community-based models of insurance to help close the disaster insurance gap.  A white paper will be posted here in Fall 2020.

The Impact of Natural Disasters on U.S. Housing and Mortgage Markets

Wharton Risk Center researchers are exploring the impact of natural disaster risk on  U.S. housing markets and on the mortgage financing system.

First Street Flood Lab

Wharton Risk Center researchers have partnered with the First Street Flood Lab to examine the impacts of flood risk on residential housing markets.

Simmons, K. M., J. Czajkowski, and P, Kovacs (2020). Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule Participation Analysis. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment.

World Economic Forum (2020). Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 World. Report

Kousky, C., and H.J.P. Wiley (2020).  The Role of Insurance in Coastal Adaptation: Workshop Findings.  Philadelphia: Wharton Risk Center, University of Pennsylvania. March.

Wing, O., N, Pinter, P. Bates, and C. Kousky (2020). New insights into US flood vulnerability revealed from flood insurance big data. Nature Communications 11: 1444.

Kousky, C., and S. Light (2019). Insuring Nature. Duke Law Journal, 69.

Kousky, C., L. Ritchie, K. Tierney, and B. Lingle (2019). Return on Investment Analysis and its Applicability to Community Disaster Preparedness Activities: Calculating Costs and Returns. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 41.

Kousky, C. (2019). The Role of Natural Disaster Insurance in Recovery and Risk Reduction.  Annual Review of Resource Economics, 11.

Pauly, M. V., and H. Kunreuther (2019). Responses to losses in high-deductible health insurance: persistence, emotions, and rationality. Behavioural Public Policy, 3(1), 72-86.

Kousky, C., K. Greig, and B. Lingle (2019). Financing Third Party Wildfire Damages: Options for California’s Electric Utilities. Philadelphia: Wharton Risk Center, University of Pennsylvania. January.

Kousky, C. (2018). Financing flood losses: A discussion of the National Flood Insurance Program.  Risk Management and Insurance Review, 21(1), 11-32.

Kousky, C., and H. Kunreuther (2018). Risk management roles of the public and private sector.  Risk Management and Insurance Review, 21(1), 181-204.

Kousky, C., and B. Lingle (2018). The Three Maps That Explain Residential Flood Insurance.  BRINK. September 13.

Kousky, C., and H. Kunreuther (2018). A Framework for Managing Catastrophic Risks. Wharton Risk Center Issue Brief, August.

Kousky, C., H. Kunreuther, B. Lingle, and L. Shabman (2018). The Emerging Private Residential Flood Insurance Market in the United States. Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, July.

Ripberger, J. T., Jenkins‐Smith, H. C., Silva, C. L., Czajkowski, J., Kunreuther, H., & Simmons, K. M. (2018). Tornado damage mitigation: homeowner support for enhanced building codes in Oklahoma.  Risk analysis, 38(11), 2300-2317.

Kousky, C., E.O. Michel-Kerjan, and P.A. Raschky (2018). Does federal disaster assistance crowd out flood insurance?.  Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 87, 150-164.

Mirchi, A., D.W. Watkins, V. Engel, M.C. Sukop, J. Czajkowski, M. Bhat, … and R. Weisskof (2018). A hydro-economic model of South Florida water resources system. Science of the Total Environment, 628, 1531-1541.

Simmons, K. M., J. Czajkowski, amd J.M. Done (2018). Economic effectiveness of implementing a statewide building code: the case of Florida.  Land Economics, 94(2), 155-174.

Kousky, C., B. Lingle, and L. Shabman (2017). The Pricing of Flood Insurance. Journal of Extreme Events. 04, 1750001.

Kousky, C., & Shabman, L. (2017). Federal funding for flood risk reduction in the US: Pre-or post-disaster?  Water Economics and Policy, 3(01), 1771001.

For a full list of publications, see our main publications page: https://riskcenter.wharton.upenn.edu/publications/

Below is a selection of past research projects.

Terrorism Insurance

Since 2001, the Wharton Risk Center has been advancing knowledge on terrorism insurance markets by providing policymakers and key industry decision makers with analysis of what roles the public and private sectors can and should play with respect to terrorism risk coverage in the United States and abroad in the post-9/11 world.

Critical Infrastructure

The Wharton Risk Center has researched the role of insurance in providing financial protection against infrastructure damage and encouraging investment in loss reduction measures. Previous investigation provided insight on barriers and opportunities for improving transportation infrastructure resilience to catastrophic events.

Effective Leadership Practices in Catastrophe Risk Management

Launched in 2010, this Wharton Risk Center project examined the risk management practices of large, publicly traded companies to identify effective strategies for detecting, preparing for and coping with catastrophic events.

Third Party Inspections

Underlying public cries for better or increased inspections that often follow an industry disaster or near-disaster is a fundamental problem of virtually every regulatory agency and regulated industry: the number of regulated firms far exceeds the resources of agencies to inspect those firms. The Wharton Risk Center examined the value of enhancing the role that third-parties play in implementing regulations.

The world now struggles to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and the impacts are rippling through the global economy. Sound risk management is more important than ever. At the Wharton Risk Center, we engage with our partners to meaningfully support management of evolving threats and disasters, such as this one.

Risk Center resources and contributions from our scholars will be added to our site as made available. See more here.

Contributing Scholars:

Carolyn Kousky, Executive Director of the Wharton Risk Center, is responsible for leading the Disaster Risk Management Lab.

Carolyn Kousky

Carolyn Kousky

Executive Director, Wharton Risk Management Center

Research Areas: Disaster Insurance; Natural Disaster Policy; Climate Adaptation

Alex Braun

Alexander Braun

Vice Director, Institute of Insurance Economics (University of St. Gallen)

Research Areas: Catastrophe Risk, Insurance-Linked Securities, Digital Insurance, Sustainable Insurance


Benjamin Collier

Assistant Professor of Risk Management and Insurance, Fox School of Business at Temple University

Research areas: Insurance Economics; Household Finance; Small Business Economics

Ben Keys

Benjamin Keys

Rowan Family Foundation Associate Professor of Real Estate

Research Areas: Property Markets; Housing Markets; Mortgage Markets

Howard Kunreuther

Howard Kunreuther

Co-Director, Wharton Risk Management Center

Research Areas: Climate Adaptation; Disaster Insurance; Communication of Climate Risks; Climate Change Policy


Penny Liao

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Wharton Risk Management Center

Research Areas: Natural Disaster Impacts & Policy; Environmental Policy

Len Shabman

Len Shabman

Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future and Emeritus Professor, Virginia Tech

Research Areas: Flood Risk Management, Environmental Market Design, Public Investment Analysis

Mike Useem

Michael Useem

Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the Wharton Leadership Center and McNulty Leadership Program

Research areas:  Governance, management, and leadership


For more information on the Disaster Risk Management Lab, contact Carolyn Kousky, Executive Director, at ckousky@wharton.upenn.edu.