Death Statistics and a Disaster Zone The Struggle to Count the Dead After Hurricane Maria

The author seeks to understand how many people died in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017, by estimating excess mortality, by determining the number of people who died in the storm, and subtracting the average number of people who would have died anyway. The author found that estimating the deaths due to a disaster can be difficult without a standardized method to determine excess mortality, but that combining data from surveys and death certificate information can be of use to understand whether fatalities are associated with a disaster. Other innovative methods can also be used, such as “capture-recapture,” a technique adapted from measurements of wildlife populations.
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