Demographic and Family Change in Shale Communities

Dr. Micheal Betz, Department of Human Sciences
Rank at time of award: Assistant Professor
Dr. Anastasia Snyder, Department of Human Sciences
Rank at time of award: Associate Professor
Communities are entering a critical period with regard to their decisions about how to handle shale development. Early-entrants have experienced direct and indirect employment benefits in addition to lease and royalty wealth local households have received. Pressure for communities to allow drilling has increased as the local economic benefits have become well-documented and low gas prices nationally have highlighted the benefits of shale energy development at the national level. Some states, like New York, have taken a wait-and-see approach, implementing moratoriums on shale drilling until the full cost/benefit structure is known. However, New York’s moratorium expires in May of 2015 and research documenting the demographic changes communities might expect to experience are urgently needed.
Data limitations pose a challenge to conducting research on the impacts of shale development. Most drilling occurs in low-population counties, whose publicly available data is censored to protect resident privacy. Uncensored population data is available through the U.S. Census Bureau at restricted data research centers. Access to detailed population data will allow us to produce reliable estimates on a wide range of population impacts associated with shale development.
Most studies on shale development have investigated a specific context, using data from a single shale formation. Economic and demographic contexts vary considerably in the United States and so it is unlikely shale development will have uniform effects across the country. National data on demographic changes will provide important insight into the likely heterogeneous experiences communities have with shale development. Additionally, it is likely impacts change over time, as the shale industry matures in a region. Natural resource extraction has followed a boom/bust cycle in many previous contexts (Sachs and Warner 2001; Black et al. 2005 ). We plan to use national data over 10 years to estimate how shale development’s impact on population dynamics change over the natural resource extraction life-cycle. This project will position our team well to secure federal funding that leads to a wealth of research addressing gaps in the natural resource extraction literature and produces policy-relevant scholarly research on shale development.

Funding resulting from this seed grant

Shale Energy Development: A Boom or Bust for Rural Families and their Communities? USDA, 4/1/2018-3/31/2022, $499,987