Review of Studies of the Economic Impact of the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks on the World Trade Center

GAO-02-700R: Published: May 29, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 2002.

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Timothy J. Guinane
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The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11 caused enormous losses in New York City. These include the direct costs of the destruction to lives and property, as well as cleanup, and the indirect costs of lost income brought about by business closings and related spending reductions. It is expected that some of the losses will be covered by payments from private insurance, emergency federal relief funds, and charitable contributions. Other losses, however, may never be recovered because some individuals and businesses were uninsured or may not qualify for federal relief or charity. In reviewing eight studies from seven different organizations on the economic impact of the attacks, GAO found that they varied in the standard economic criteria used for analyzing economic impacts. In addition, the studies used different periods of time to estimate future costs that might be incurred. GAO found that the study by the New York City Partnership provided the most comprehensive estimates. The study estimated that the attacks on the two World Trade Center buildings cost $83 billion (in 2001 dollars) in total losses including both direct and indirect costs and $67 billion of the losses would likely be covered by insurance, federal payments, or increased economic activity. Since most of the studies were completed, or based on information developed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the estimates were based on information that is now dated. Consequently, the estimates are likely to evolve as activities, such as cleanup and stabilization, are completed and as factors, such as the long-term consequences of the attacks on the health of the survivors, becomes known.

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