Dr Hiroaki Matsuura, Oxford University
Date: 21 January 2014
A tremendous amount of radioactive products were discharged as a result of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011, which resulted in radioactive contamination of the plant and surrounding areas. When describing the geographical distribution of radioactive contamination, the government, media, and other organizations largely used administrative boundaries (prefectures, municipalities etc.) or distance from the radiation source as a reference. I examine how this sometimes misleading information about risks, as opposed to the actual risks of radiation, significantly and negatively affected land prices in locations near the plant. I find that the prefecture border effects – but neither the distance effect from the nuclear power plant nor the effect of the actual risk of radiation – are significantly related to a reduction in land price after the accident. This is to say that, even with the absence of the actual risk of radiation, the land price in Fukushima and its three adjacent prefectures has declined more rapidly than that in other prefectures of Japan after the accident. Although health risk information based on prefecture has an obvious advantage of distilling large and complex risk information into a simple one, the government, media, and other organizations need to recognize and carefully examine the potential of misclassifying non-contaminated areas into contaminated prefectures. Doing so will avoid unintentional consequences to the region’s economy.
About the speaker
Hiroaki Matsuura is currently Departmental Lecturer in the Economy of Japan in the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford and a Junior Research Fellow of St. Antony’s College. His main interests are health economics and demography, with a special interest in the relation between laws and population health. His doctoral dissertation research explores a right to health or to health care in national constitutions of 157 countries and state constitutions of the 50 U.S. states and estimates the impact of introducing (or removing) a right to health or to health care into national and state constitutions on health system and population health outcomes. His most recent article, “The Right to Health in Japan: Challenges of a Super Aging Society and Implication from Its 2011 Public Health Emergency” (with Eriko Sase) will appear in “Advancing the Human Right to Health”, edited by José M. Zuniga, Stephen P. Marks, and Lawrence O. Gostin, Oxford University Press, 2013.