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Melissa Kearney, Professor, Economics

The Family Formation Response to a Localized Economic Shock: Evidence From The Fracking Boom
When Nov 21, 2016
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 1101 Morrill Hall
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

There has been a well-documented “retreat from marriage” among less educated individuals in the U.S. and non-marital childbearing has become the norm among young mothers and mothers with low levels of education. One hypothesis is that the declining economic position of men in these populations is at least partially responsible for these trends. That leads to the reverse hypothesis that an increase in potential earnings of less-educated men would correspondingly lead to an increase in marriage and a reduction in non-marital births. To investigate this possibility, we empirically exploit the positive economic shock associated with localized “fracking booms” throughout the U.S. in recent decades. We confirm that these localized fracking booms led to increased wages for non-college-educated men. A reduced form analysis reveals that in response to local-area fracking shocks, the non-marital share of births falls, but both marital and non-marital births increase and there is no evidence of an increase in marriage rates. The pattern of results is consistent with positive income effects on births, but no associated increase in marriage. We compare our findings to the response to the Appalachian coal boom experience of the 1980s, when it appears that marital births and marriage rates increased, but non-marital births did not. This contrast potentially suggests important interactions between economic forces and social context.

Melissa Kearney

About the Speaker

Melissa S. Kearney is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland. She is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); a non-resident Senior Fellow at Brookings; a scholar affiliate and member of the board of the Notre Dame Wilson-Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO); and a scholar affiliate of the MIT Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and co-chair of the J-PAL cities and states inititative. Kearney served as Director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings from 2013-2015 and currently serves on the Project's Advisory Council. She has held leadership positions in the Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM) and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. She has testified before Congress on the issue of income inequality. Prior to joining the Maryland faculty in 2006, Kearney was a fellow at the Brookings Institution and Assistant Professor at Wellesley College. Professor Kearney received her PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002 and her BA from Princeton University in 1996. She studied on a National Science Graduate Research Fellowship and a Harry S Truman Scholarship. Kearney's research focuses on issues of social policy, poverty, and inequality. Many of her papers examine the effect of government programs and economic conditions on the behaviors and outcomes of economically disadvantaged populations. Her work has been published in leading academic journals and has been frequently cited in the popular press.

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