Why are natural disasters so deadly in some places but not in others? Disaster scholars have grappled with this question for decades, but a relatively new line of comparative research looks at the effects of different disaster‐relevant institutions. This paper explores the effects of one institution—the contract. Specifically, it connects existing theories of contracts to theories of disaster and generates competing hypotheses about the relationship between contracts disaster related fatalities. Data on the contract intensity of economies (CIE) is used to explore this relationship using country‐level data on natural disaster deaths between 1960 and 2007. The paper provides evidence that a country’s economy becomes more contract intensive, fatalities from natural disasters are likely to decrease.