The Wilson Quarterly

How many people died as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? Most sources now settle on the figure of 2,975, but too many imponderables confound a perfect determination. For example, do you count the man who died later of lung cancer after breathing debris from New York’s ruined World Trade Center?

How much harder it is to tally the economic impact of 9/11. The online journal Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy put the question to eight research teams and individuals. They were told to leave aside the cost of remedial action at the World Trade Center site, heightened homeland security that has left government and industry buildings ringed with bollards and patrolled by armed guards, and military actions overseas. Nonetheless, some of the findings are surprising.

Nearly all the researchers came back with results that pegged the cost to the national economy (in 2006 dollars) at between $35 billion and $109 billion—about 0.5 percent to 1 percent of GDP. That is much less than some earlier estimates, which ranged as high as $500 billion.

A team headed by economist Adam Z. Rose of the University of Southern California found that losses from business interruptions totaled “only slightly over $100 billion.” The Rose team arrived at its figure by looking individually at the affected business sectors for three years after the attacks occurred. By its estimates, air transportation suffered the biggest hit—$35 billion in losses over two years—followed by hotels ($22 billion) and restaurants ($14 billion).

Rose and his group also looked more narrowly at the impact on firms housed in the World Trade Center and other damaged or destroyed buildings nearby. Of the 1,134 firms employing 114,126 workers at the time of the attacks, those that went out of business employed only 4,511 workers. Nearly 88 percent of the employees—100,226 in all—worked for firms that relocated within Manhattan. New Jersey absorbed 4,680 of the workers; counties north of New York City, 2,758; the rest of the United States, 1,804; and foreign countries, 146.

Rose and economist S. Brock Blomberg of Claremont McKenna College say that the results underscore the ability of the U.S. economy to bounce back under pressure.

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The Source: "The Economic Impacts of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks" edited by S. Brock Blomberg and Adam Z. Rose, in Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, Volume 15, No. 2, 2009. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Brendan Loy

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