Environment Systems & Decisions

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 121–137 | Cite as

Should I stay or should I go? An experimental study of health and economic government policies following a severe biological agent release

  • Heather Rosoff
  • Robert Siko
  • Richard John
  • William J. Burns


Extensive research has explored policy challenges associated with preparing and responding to a large-scale biological release. A key component in recovery strategy development that has received less attention is the understanding of government policy influence on the impacted populations’ migratory decisions. This study experimentally manipulates health and economic government policies during response and recovery to assess the extent to which public migration is contingent on the level of government intervention. Set immediately following a large-scale anthrax release in San Francisco, we use a five episode video scenario to describe details about the environmental impacts of the disaster, emergency response procedures, and clean-up operations. Within these video segments, the extent of government involvement in economic and health risk policies is manipulated. Using these manipulations as predictors, we track how varying levels of government risk signals influence migration behavior at three distinct decision points during disaster recovery. In addition, two belief scales and two scales of emotion (affect) are included as predictors to explore the potential for their mediating role in explaining intentions to migrate. We find that the decision to migrate is highly context-sensitive, with each decision point showing a unique combination of significant predictors influencing decision making. At 19 days following the anthrax release, the health risk policy manipulation has both a direct and indirect effect on migration behavior. At 3 months, the influence of the health risk policy manipulation is mediated by beliefs, and at 1 year, only indirect effects associated with affect and beliefs influence migration.


Risk perception Anthrax Population migration Terrorism Disaster recovery 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather Rosoff
    • 1
  • Robert Siko
    • 1
  • Richard John
    • 1
  • William J. Burns
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA
  3. 3.California State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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