In a recent paper, Barro et al find that the probability of a country suffering a “consumption disaster” is about 1.7% per year. That sounds like an awfully scary number to me. For example, that means that over the course of a decade, there is about a 15% chance of having a disaster, and over the course of a typical lifetime (apx 80 years), there is a 75% chance of having a disaster.
I suppose that is large by today’s standards. But our preindustrial ancestors probably faced those kinds of odds each year, not each lifetime. I would love to see an estimate of such a number over time.