Skip Navigation
Researchers Delve into Sept. 11 Effects

Researchers Delve into Sept. 11 Effects

Four years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, UCLA professors and researchers from various departments continue to work to better understand how the events affect American society and the world.

We really need to give more attention to transit safety. —Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, UCLA Department of Urban Planning

This story was first published in the Daily Bruin.

In the days after the attacks, Americans had concerns over the future of the economy and the safety of the country's transit systems and asked questions about why America's intelligence system was not able to prevent the attacks.

UCLA academics have used the past four years to conduct research and try to answer some of these questions.

Three UCLA researchers have explored the economic impacts of Sept. 11, intelligence reform and the safety of transit systems given potential terrorist threats, an issue which was brought again to public consciousness with the attacks in London in July and Madrid in March 2004.

Economic impacts

Christopher Thornberg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, was one researcher who studied long-term economic impacts of the attacks.

Thornberg compared economic data from the time period after Sept. 11, 2001 to other major domestic events such as Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake, and found that the attacks have not significantly affected the economy in the long term.

While Thornberg notes that the attacks impacted America's psyche, he found that the United States did not experience a recession in the long run.

For an event to cause a recession, Thornberg said three elements are required: The event needs to be big, rapid, and sustained over a duration of time.

Thornberg came to the conclusion that the event was big and rapid, but it was not sustained over a duration of time.

As a result, Thornberg concluded that these type of "disasters do not cause recession."

Based on his findings, terrorism and natural disasters will only postpone business, but not prevent it from taking place in the long term.

"Business is delayed, but not cancelled," he said.

Thornberg compared New York after Sept. 11 to the local communities affected by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Andrew in parts of Florida and Louisiana in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in California two years later.

He concluded that "there is no evidence showing consumers respond to domestic tragedies."

In other words, these events typically do not affect how consumers behave and they will continue to spend and participate in the economy.

Cold War mentality in intelligence

Professor Amy Zegart, in the public policy department, has studied intelligence reform.

In 2006, she will be releasing a book called "Intelligence in Wonderland: 9/11 and the Roots of Failure."

In her book, Zegart writes that "the Cold War had dominated both the thinking and operation of the CIA and the 13 other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community," even in light of emerging terrorist threats.

Zegart believes that after the Cold War, America's intelligence agencies were slow to adapt with the changing world.

"The U.S. intelligence community showed a stunning inability to adapt to the rise of terrorism after the Cold War ended," Zegart said.

The book will detail how well intelligence agencies adapted to the threat of terrorism and the difficulties associated with intelligence reforms.

Transit safety

Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris in the social welfare department has conducted a study on the safety of America's transit systems. She started the research at the end of 2003 and finished the study in June.

Loukaitou-Sideris worked with a team of professors and graduate students from UCLA, as well as other universities in a study funded by the UCLA International Institute and the Mineta Transportation Institute.

With her team, Loukaitou-Sideris also analyzed the safety of transit systems of major cities, such as London, Paris, Madrid and Tokyo, and compared these international cities with the United States.

To study the transit systems of these foreign cities, the team traveled abroad and spoke with transportation officials.

During the two-year study, they also evaluated the safety of American transit systems and in their research found that European cities tend to have more centralized planning in the government.

"We really need to give more attention to transit safety. ... We need to do more," Loukaitou-Sideris said.

According to her findings, public transit centers, such as bus stations and subways, are especially vulnerable.

Her team came to the conclusion that "major threats are in the largest systems, in the largest cities."

The professor believes "we need to standardize the procedure of emergency response" with better coordination between state and federal governments.

"There is much more coordination (in Europe) than what exists in the United States," she said.

However, she said she believes that the United States is moving in the right direction.

The study concluded that more federal funding and better coordination between federal and state governments are the keys to improving America's transit centers.

UCLA International Institute