Unhollowing rural America? Rural human capital flight and the demographic consequences of the oil and gas boom

  • Adam Mayer
  • Stephanie A. Malin
  • Shawn K. Olson-Hazboun
Original Paper
  • 45 Downloads

Abstract

The USA has recently experienced an unprecedented boom in domestic, on-shore oil and gas production via unconventional drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling. Community leaders and policy-makers claim that this boom holds much promise to reverse many social and economic challenges faced by rural, non-amenity counties. Chief among these is human capital flight—often called the “rural brain drain”—and the loss of working-age population. This analysis examines the socio-demographic consequences of the oil and gas boom by assessing if the boom can stall or reverse human capital flight and the loss of working-age population from rural, non-amenity counties. Using a large data set of U.S. counties and difference-in-difference models, we find that the oil and gas boom is associated with modest increases in the proportion of county population with a high school education or less and modest losses in the proportion of county population with a college education. The boom likely increased the proportion of working age population, particularly males 20–34. Overall, our results suggest that oil and gas development has a limited effect on human capital and age composition in non-amenity, rural counties. Broadly, we expect that oil and gas development will do little to address long-run, structural demographic challenges facing rural America.

Keywords

Brain drain Age composition Hydraulic fracturing Fracking Rural development 

References

  1. Adamson, M. R. (2008). Oil booms and boosterism: Local elites, outside companies, and the growth of Ventura, California. Journal of Urban History, 35(1), 150–177.Google Scholar
  2. Artz, G. (2003). Rural area brain drain: is it a reality. Choices, 4(1), 1–1.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, D. E., Canning, D., Fink, G., & Finlay, J. E. (2007). Does age structure forecast economic growth? International Journal of Forecasting, 23(4), 569–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, D. L., & Schafft, K. A. (2011). Rural people and communities in the 21st century: resilience and transformation. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, D. L., & Swanson, L. E. (Eds.). (2004). Challenges for rural America in the twenty-first century. University Park: Penn State Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, D. L., Bolender, B. C., Kulcsar, L. J., Glasgow, N., & Sanders, S. (2011). Intercounty variability of net migration at older ages as a path-dependent process. Rural Sociology, 76(1), 44–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bryson, A., Dorsett, R., & Purdon, S. (2002). The use of propensity score matching in the evaluation of active labour market policies. Department for Work and Pension, UK. Retrieved 11/14/17 from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/4993/1/The_use_of_propensity_score_matching_in_the_evaluation_of_active_labour_market_policies.pdf.
  8. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). (2016). Interactive data. Retrieved 11/14/17 from https://www.bea.gov/itable/index.cfm.
  9. Carolan, M. S. (2009). A sociological look at biofuels: ethanol in the early decades of the twentieth century and lessons for today. Rural Sociology, 74(1), 86–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carr, P. J., & Kefalas, M. J. (2009). Hollowing out the middle: The rural brain drain and what it means for America. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  11. Carriquiry, M. (2007). US biodiesel production: recent developments and prospects. Iowa Ag Review, 13(2), 8–11.Google Scholar
  12. Castells, M. (1989). The informational city: Information technology, economic restructuring, and the urban-regional process. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Charnley, S., McLain, R. J., & Donoghue, E. M. (2008). Forest management policy, amenity migration, and community well-being in the American west: reflections from the Northwest Forest Plan. Human Ecology, 36(5), 743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Colocousis, C. R. (2012). “It was tourism repellent, That’s what we were spraying”: Natural amenities, environmental stigma, and redevelopment in a postindustrial mill town. Sociological Forum, 27(3), 756–776.Google Scholar
  15. Corbett, M. (2005). Rural education and out-migration: The case of a coastal community. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(1 and 2), 52–72.Google Scholar
  16. Crenshaw, E., & Robison, K. (2010). Socio-demographic determinants of economic growth: age-structure, preindustrial heritage and sociolinguistic integration. Social Forces, 88(5), 2217–2240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cromartie, J. (2013). Non-metro areas as a whole experience first period of population loss. Accessed 13 July 2017 from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2013/may/nonmetro-areas-as-a-whole-experience-first-period-of-population-loss/.
  18. Cromartie, J. (2016). Population and migration. Accessed 13 July 2017 from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/population-migration.
  19. Davis, C. (2012). The politics of “fracking”: regulating natural gas drilling practices in Colorado and Texas. Review of Policy Research, 29(2), 177–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dewees, S., Lobao, L., & Swanson, L. E. (2003). Local economic development in an age of devolution: the question of rural localities. Rural Sociology, 68(2), 182–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fisk, J. M. (2013). The right to know? State politics of fracking disclosure. Review of Policy Research, 30(4), 345–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fry, M., Briggle, A., & Kincaid, J. (2015a). Fracking and environmental (in) justice in a Texas city. Ecological Economics, 117, 97–107.Google Scholar
  23. Fry, M., Brannstrom, C., & Murphy, T. (2015b). How Dallas became frack free: Hydrocarbon governance under neoliberalism. Environment and Planning A, 47(12), 2591–2608.Google Scholar
  24. Fuguitt, G. V., & Heaton, T. B. (1995). The impact of migration on the nonmetropolitan population age structure, 1960–1990. Population Research and Policy Review, 14(2), 215–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gallardo, R. (2010). Rural America in the 2000s: age. Southern Rural Development Center and the Daily Yonder.Google Scholar
  26. Gibbs, R., & Kusmin, L. (2005). Low-skill employment and the changing economy of rural America. Retrieved from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=878342.
  27. Girma, S., & Görg, H. (2007). Evaluating the foreign ownership wage premium using a difference-in-differences matching approach. Journal of International Economics, 72(1), 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Glenna, L. L., & Cahoy, D. R. (2009). Agribusiness concentration, intellectual property, and the prospects for rural economic benefits from the emerging biofuel economy. Southern rural sociology, 24(2), 111.Google Scholar
  29. Golden, J. M., & Wiseman, H. J. (2015). The fracking revolution: shale gas as a case study in innovation policy. Emory Law Journal, 64(4), 955–1040.Google Scholar
  30. Gosnell, H., & Abrams, J. (2011). Amenity migration: diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges. GeoJournal, 76(4), 303–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gulliford, A. (1989). Boomtown blues: Colorado oil shale, 1885–1985. Niwot: Univ Pr of Colorado.Google Scholar
  32. Hainmueller, J. (2012). Entropy balancing for causal effects: A multivariate reweighting method to produce balanced samples in observational studies. Political Analysis, 20(1), 25–46.Google Scholar
  33. Harvey, R. A., Hayden, J. D., Kamble, P. S., Bouchard, J. R., & Huang, J. C. (2016). A comparison of entropy balance and probability weighting methods to generalize observational cohorts to a population: a simulation and empirical example. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pds.4121/full.
  34. Hunter, L. M., Boardman, J. D., & Onge, J. M. S. (2005). The association between natural amenities, rural population growth, and long-term residents’ economic Weil-being. Rural Sociology, 70(4), 452–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jacquet, J. B., & Kay, D. L. (2014). The unconventional boomtown: updating the impact model to fit new spatial and temporal scales. Journal of Rural and Community Development, 9(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
  36. Jensen, L., McLaughlin, D. K., & Slack, T. (2003). Rural poverty: the persisting challenge. In D. L. Brown, & L. E. Swanson (Eds.), Challenges for rural America in the twenty-first century (p. 118–131). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Johnson, K. M., & Beale, C. L. (1994). The recent revival of widespread population growth in nonmetropolitan areas of the United States1. Rural Sociology, 59(4), 655–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Johnson, K. M., & Beale, C. L. (2002). Nonmetro recreation counties: their identification and rapid growth. Rural America, 75. Retrieved 11/23/2017 from http://scholars.unh.edu/soc_facpub/75.
  39. Johnson, K. M., Curtis, K. J., & Egan-Robertson, D. (2017). Frozen in place: net migration in sub-national areas of the United States in the era of the great recession. Population and Development Review.  https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12095.
  40. Komarek, T. M. (2016). Labor market dynamics and the unconventional natural gas boom: evidence from the Marcellus region. Resource and Energy Economics, 45, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krannich, R. S., Luloff, A. E., & Field, D. R. (2011). People, places and landscapes: social change in high amenity rural areas, (Vol. 14). New York: Springer Science & Business Media.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kreif, N., Grieve, R., Hangartner, D., Turner, A. J., Nikolova, S., & Sutton, M. (2016). Examination of the synthetic control method for evaluating health policies with multiple treated units. Health Economics, 25(12), 1514–1528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Krupnick, A. J., Kopp, R. J., Hayes, K., & Roeshot, S. (2014). The natural gas revolution: critical questions for a sustainable energy future. Washington: Resources for the Future.Google Scholar
  44. Ladd, A. E. (2014). Environmental disputes and opportunity-threat impacts surrounding natural gas fracking in Louisiana. Social Currents, 1(3), 293–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lobao, L., & Meyer, K. (2001). The great agricultural transition: crisis, change, and social consequences of twentieth century US farming. Annual Review of Sociology, 27(1), 103–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Longino Jr., C. F. (1988). The gray peril mentality and the impact of retirement migration. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 7(4), 448–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Malin, S. (2014). There’s no real choice but to sign: Neoliberalization and normalization of hydraulic fracturing on Pennsylvania farmland. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 4(1), 17–27.Google Scholar
  48. Malin, S. A., & DeMaster, K. T. (2016). A devil’s bargain: rural environmental injustices and hydraulic fracturing on Pennsylvania’s farms. Journal of Rural Studies, 47, 278–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Malmberg, B. (1994). Age structure effects on economic growth—Swedish evidence. Scandinavian Economic History Review, 42(3), 279–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McGranahan, D. A., & et al. (1999). Natural amenities drive rural population change. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ags/uerser/33955.html.
  51. McGranahan, D. A., & Beale, C. L. (2002). Understanding rural population loss. Rural America, 17(4), 2–11.Google Scholar
  52. Munasib, A., & Rickman, D. S. (2015). Regional economic impacts of the shale gas and tight oil boom: a synthetic control analysis. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 50, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Peluso, N. L., Humphrey, C. R., & Fortmann, L. P. (1994). The rock, the beach, and the tidal pool: people and poverty in natural resource-dependent areas. Society & Natural Resources, 7(1), 23–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Perry, S. L. (2011). Energy consequences and conflicts across the global countryside: North American agricultural perspectives. In: Forum on Public Policy (Vol. 2, pp. 1–23). Retrieved from http://secure.oldhamcounty.com/forumonpublicpolicy/vol2011.no2/archivevol2011.no2/perry.pdf.
  55. Perry, S. L. (2012a). Development, land use, and collective trauma: the Marcellus Shale gas boom in rural Pennsylvania. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, 34(1), 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Perry, S. L. (2012b). Environmental reviews and case studies: addressing the societal costs of unconventional oil and gas exploration and production: a framework for evaluating short-term, future, and cumulative risks and uncertainties of hydrofracking. Environmental Practice, 14(4), 352–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Perry, S. L. (2013). Using ethnography to monitor the community health implications of onshore unconventional oil and gas developments: examples from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, 23(1), 33–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Provasnik, S., KewalRamani, A., Coleman, M. M., Gilbertson, L., Herring, W., & Xie, Q. (2007). Status of Education in Rural America. NCES 2007–040. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 11/14/ 2017 from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007040.pdf.
  59. Reichert, C., Cromartie, J. B., & Arthun, R. O. (2014). Impacts of return migration on rural US communities. Rural Sociology, 79(2), 200–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Roscigno, V. J., & Crowle, M. L. (2001). Rurality, institutional disadvantage, and achievement/attainment. Rural Sociology, 66(2), 268–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Saint Onge, J. M., Hunter, L. M., & Boardman, J. D. (2007). Population growth in high-amenity rural areas: Does it bring socioeconomic benefits for long-term residents? Social Science Quarterly, 88(2), 366–381.Google Scholar
  62. Sassen, S. (2001). The global city: New york, London, Tokyo. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schafft, K., & Biddle, C. (2015). Opportunity, ambivalence, and youth perspectives on community change in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. Human Organization, 74(1), 74–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schafft, K. A., Glenna, L. L., Green, B., & Borlu, Y. (2014). Local impacts of unconventional gas development within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region: gauging boomtown development through the perspectives of educational administrators. Society & Natural Resources, 27(4), 389–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Selfa, T., Kulcsar, L., Bain, C., Goe, R., & Middendorf, G. (2011). Biofuels bonanza?: exploring community perceptions of the promises and perils of biofuels production. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35(4), 1379–1389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sherman, J., & Sage, R. (2011). Sending off all your good treasures: rural schools, brain-drain, and community survival in the wake of economic collapse. Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online), 26(11), 1.Google Scholar
  67. Shumway, J. M., & Otterstrom, S. M. (2001). Spatial patterns of migration and income change in the mountain west: the dominance of service-based, amenity-rich counties. The Professional Geographer, 53(4), 492–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Silva, T. J., & Crowe, J. A. (2015). The hope-reality gap: rural community officials’ perceptions of unconventional shale development as a means to increase local population and revitalize resource extraction. Community Development, 46(4), 312–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ulrich-Schad, J. D. (2015). Recreational amenities, rural migration patterns, and the great recession. Population and Environment, 37(2), 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). (2016). County-level data sets. Retrieved 11/14/ 2017 from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/county-level-data-sets.
  71. United States Census (US Census). (2017). Dicennial Census. Retrieved 11/14/17 from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census.html.
  72. Weber, J. G. (2012). The effects of a natural gas boom on employment and income in Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming. Energy Economics, 34(5), 1580–1588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Weber, J. G. (2014). A decade of natural gas development: The makings of a resource curse? Resource and Energy Economics, 37, 168–183.Google Scholar
  74. Weber, J. G., Brown, J. P., & Pender, J. (2013). Rural wealth creation and emerging energy industries: lease and royalty payments to farm households and businesses. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Research Working Papers. Retrieved 11/14/17 from https://www.kansascityfed.org/ONmNT/publicat/reswkpap/pdf/rwp13-07.pdf.
  75. Willow, A., & Wylie, S. (2014). Politics, ecology, and the new anthropology of energy: exploring the emerging frontiers of hydraulic fracking. Journal of Political Ecology, 21(12), 222–236.Google Scholar
  76. Winkler, R., Field, D. R., Luloff, A. E., Krannich, R. S., & Williams, T. (2007). Social landscapes of the Inter-Mountain West: a comparison of “old west” and “new west” communities. Rural Sociology, 72(3), 478–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Wrenn, D. H., Kelsey, T. W., Jaenicke, E. C., et al. (2015). Resident vs. nonresident employment associated with Marcellus Shale development. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 44(2), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zhao, Q., & Percival, D. (2016). Entropy balancing is doubly robust. Working Paper. Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/~qyzhao/papers/entropy_balance.pdf.
  79. Zirogiannis, N., Alcorn, J., Rupp, J., Carley, S., & Graham, J. D. (2016). State regulation of unconventional gas development in the US: an empirical evaluation. Energy Research & Social Science, 11, 142–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Mayer
    • 1
  • Stephanie A. Malin
    • 2
  • Shawn K. Olson-Hazboun
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Human Dimensions of Natural ResourcesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Graduate Program on the EnvironmentThe Evergreen State CollegeOlympiaUSA

Personalised recommendations