February 2015

IZA DP No. 8867: The Academic Impact of Natural Disasters: Evidence from L'Aquila Earthquake

revised version published in: Education Economics, 2018, 26 (1), 62-77

This paper examines the effect of the L'Aquila earthquake on the academic performance of the students of the local university. Following this traumatic event, not only are students likely to have developed an acute stress disorder, but they have also experienced a significant disruption in their learning environment because of the closure of several university buildings and the relocation to temporary premises. We compare changes in educational outcomes among students of the University of L'Aquila before and after the earthquake with changes in educational outcomes during the same time period among students enrolled at other Central Italian universities. The empirical results suggest that while this natural disaster has reduced students' probability of graduating on time by 6.6 percentage points, it has had no statistically significant effect on university drop-out in the very short-term. Additionally, the on-time graduation result masks differential gender effects.