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Research: Fracking Boom Gives Way to Baby Boost

KUT/Mose Buchele

A new study released this month looks at whether an increase in earnings for non-college educated men leads to a boost in marriage rates, among other things. And to find the answer researchers looked at a notorious example of good money made quickly: the fracking boom.

To start off: The studypublished by the National Bureau of Economics Research confirmed what you may have anecdotally observed: The fracking boom in shale plays across the country – including the Permian Basin – has led to increased wages for non-college educated men.

But that wage increase, according to the study, didn't mean couples were likely to marry – something that earlier research had suggested.

Additionally, the research shows that with the fracking boom came a baby boost. In these rural, shale-play counties, the study estimates childbearing rates increased by about 3 percent. Both marital and non-marital births saw an increase.

"The pattern of results is consistent with positive income effects on births, but no associated increase in marriage," the study reads.

The study also compared its findings with the thriving coal industry in Appalachia during the 1970s. At this time, like today, increased wages also meant an increase in birth rates. But, unlike today, there were far fewer babies born out of wedlock. Researchers say this comparison could point to a change in social norms, but there are multiple variables to consider.

"Although this evidence is consistent with changing social norms, it is not definitive," the study found. "There are other potential explanations for the differential responses observed between periods."

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.