Author: Connor Feeney

Rachel’s Journal Round Up Q3 2023

Rachel’s Journal Round Up Q3 2023

The selected article summaries for this quarter focused on local economic development. A range of issues were covered, such as the aftermath of Covid-19, migration, the Great Resignation, commuting distances, and more. All of the articles are in peer reviewed academic journals. 

Rohlin, S. (2023). Challenges to Identifying Economic Development Impacts – Sage Journals. 

This article is a commentary on the causal impacts of economic development. The author argues that, going forward, researchers need to focus more on distributional changes, the effects of migration, and the impact of Covid-19. 

Pawns with stacks of coins. Concept of social and economic inequality by is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Pawns with stacks of coins.” Concept of social and economic inequality by is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Due to increasing income inequality, it has become a necessity to look at economic outcomes more broadly. Typically, economic studies focus on the median/mean effect of a program, or alternatively focus exclusively on low-income individuals. The author argues that looking at an entire economic distribution is crucial to understanding the true effect of any particular economic policy/trend. One specific issue cited was how studying an entire distribution allows one to see how many workers are moving up and down the economic ladder, which has important policy implications.

The author also wants more focus on how migration affects economic development in local regions. For example, the author cites a case where money was given to help individuals in a local area obtain jobs and gain qualifications, but an indirect consequence of this was outsiders migrating to take advantage of these benefits. Lastly, the author wants to discuss how Covid-19 will affect the economy in the future. One issue that is directly highlighted is remote work and how this could increase the spatial scope of labor markets. 

Liu, C. Y., Doussard, M., & Lowe, N. (2023). Fixing work, and Moving Beyond It. – Sage Journals. 

This article discusses how Covid-19 created a fundamental shift in the U.S. labor market. The author goes into how the Great Resignation has been an underlying issue for years caused by technological advancement, globalization, and the decline in unionization, rather than a sudden change in attitude, as it has been portrayed. In addition, there has been a widening gap between “well-paying jobs”, and lesser paying jobs. Meanwhile, moderate skill jobs that straddle this economic divide are increasing in scarcity.

The author concludes that the solution to this problem is a renewed focus on job quality (as opposed to job quantity) in both the workplace and public policy at large. The author cites examples of small scale universal basic income and a $22/hour minimum wage in the fast-food industry as positive and necessary steps to relieve economic struggle in the United States. 

Kures, M., & Deller, S. C. (2023). Growth in Commuting Patterns and Their Impacts on Rural Workforce and Economic Development. – Economic Development Quarterly, 37(1), 54–63.

This article discusses recent changes in commuting patterns, as well as the general benefits and costs of commuting on workers. The information presented was gathered from the United States Census Bureau. 

The article outlines several benefits and costs to commuting noted in the research. Some studies have indicated that commuting is good for workers because it is an activity devoid of family/work burdens. Furthermore, commuting has also been associated with improving urban-rural integration. Most studies, however, have indicated that commuting is a cost to workers, and commutes longer than 50-60 miles cease to be beneficial. 

The number of stretch (long distance) commuters has increased from 11.0% to 13.6% of the workforce. Workers earning $1,250/month or less were more likely to be stretch commuters. However, since 2002, the greatest growth among stretch commuters comes from those making $3,333/month or more. 

Overall, the paper concludes by stating that higher rates of commuting require increased economic and social collaboration between communities. Those who spend more time commuting spend less time in their communities, so integrating communities together would be beneficial from both an economic and social perspective. While research is limited, some studies have indicated that long distance commuting has naturally contributed to cross-community integration, resulting in positive externalities such as lower poverty rates. Local policymakers should work to promote this further.

Bartik, T. (2022). Seize the time: Needed research on local economic development in an Era of Increased Attention to Problems of Pace – Sage Journals. 

This article outlines five areas surrounding local economic development where more research is needed: better definitions of local labor markets, policy tools to help economically distressed neighborhoods, types of jobs that have growth prospects and also provide long-run job opportunities for workers who lack a bachelor‘s degree, estimates of how local worker skill-upgrading programs affect labor market outcomes, and more rigorous evaluation of both customized business services and comprehensive regional economic development strategies.

On a basic level, local labor markets are simply an area of space with enough internal employment activity that an economic shock would affect the entire region. The author emphasizes the importance of selecting a proportional labor market to achieve accurate and useful data – larger labor markets risk ignoring local communities, but narrow research affecting only a few communities risks ignoring broader economic outcomes. The author concludes by mentioning that the rise of remote work further complicates the issue of local labor markets.

In regard to “distressed neighborhoods”, defined as places with high unemployment and low income, the author states that more research is needed on how to create increased employment and upward mobility in these communities. The author also notes that “distressed neighborhoods” are disproportionately populated by Black Americans. 

Looking to the future, the author argues that more research is needed on what job types will be well paying and in demand in the future. Many high paying managerial and professional jobs have too many educational credentials to be accessible. Instead, the author promotes “mid wage” jobs, which require little education but provide living wages. The author concludes by advocating for more research on how to promote and create these types of jobs.

With reference to skill upgrading programs, the author explains the current lack of research on the topic. While some local studies have pointed out possible benefits, there is little research about the side effects of these policies. Do skill upgrading programs promote migration, thus causing an increase in housing prices? These are questions that remain largely untouched. 

Lastly, the author supports more research in economic development services for individual businesses and local economies. Services to businesses have the potential to affect other facets of a local economy in unpredictable ways. Similarly, larger federal programs, such as the recent CHIPS Act, need to be researched to determine whether local economic improvements were worth the cost of the program. Overall, the article above outlines five aspects of the economy that need to be further examined. 

Shang, B. (2021, June 25). The Poverty and Distributional Impacts of Carbon Pricing: Channels and policy implications. – IMF. 

This article discusses the impact of carbon pricing (otherwise known as a carbon tax) through the lens of consumption, income, health, and revenue recycling. 

In regards to consumption, the article says that research is still emerging, but studies have indicated around 70% of energy price-driven input changes are passed down to the consumer. However, this varies by fuel and there is not a uniform consensus. In theory, carbon pricing would incentivize firms to improve energy efficiency or transition to renewable energy. This behavioral response could lower the burden of a carbon tax on both businesses and consumers. In fact, the article states that, “A carbon price of US$30 per ton of CO2 would reduce carbon emissions by about 14 percent, mostly because of consumers substituting away from emissions-intensive goods rather than lowering consumption in response to across-the-board price increases” (Shang). Lastly, the paper warns policymakers about the rebound effect, where increased energy efficiency leads to cheaper energy in spite of the carbon tax resulting in more carbon emissions.

A carbon tax would negatively impact workers in “brown” jobs, such as the coal industry. Even a gradual carbon tax would cripple the industry, and on a global level a carbon tax would negatively impact countries that rely heavily on oil for economic growth and government revenue. On the other hand, a carbon tax would improve the viability of renewable energy, causing an increase in investment and employment in this sector. 

From a health perspective, 4.2 million people die each year of carbon pollution. Health benefits from carbon pricing vary wildly by study and by population type. Ultimately, The evidence on how carbon pricing affects health outcomes is still unfolding. 

Revenue recycling refers to how the revenue raised from a carbon tax is spent. These plans vary heavily, ranging from cash transfers to infrastructure projects. The article does not promote any specific proposal, only outlining a goal of reducing poverty and income inequality. 

The article then presents details of different revenue recycling plans and how different countries across the world have implemented a carbon tax. The article concludes by warning that most countries have been tepid in implementing carbon taxes, an unacceptable outcome given the time sensitive nature of climate change.

New England’s Unique Environmental Problem: Lead

New England’s Unique Environmental Problem: Lead

Lead and Solder Products” by colinmford is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In New England, even though most sources of drinking water are lead free, lead was a common material used for constructing pipes until 1986. Even today, while copper has eclipsed lead as the most common material used for pipes, lead solder can still be used to join copper pipes. Corrosive water can then cause the lead to leach into the drinking water. Lead contamination from drinking water is one of the most common forms of lead poisoning in both New England and across the country. 

Every state in New England still has lead pipes carrying water to houses (as well as lead contamination in schools). In Rhode Island, for example, there are 30,000 known lead service lines that are a contamination risk. Fortunately, New England is taking steps to remedy this problem. There are two “fronts” on which the battle against lead contamination in drinking water is being fought: in public infrastructure, such as schools, and in private residences and businesses, which is more challenging. In terms of schools, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire require consistent testing to see if lead is contaminating the water supply. In all three states, tests have come back confirming that a portion of the public school water supply is contaminated with lead. Meanwhile, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island do not require schools to test for lead, although Massachusetts has a robust voluntary testing program. Connecticut, for its part, does require young children to get tested for lead, but does not extend this requirement to schools. Assisted by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states are investing in replacing lead pipes with safe, modern ones. These projects will not finish overnight, but still represent an important step in the right direction. On the federal level, the Lead and Copper regulates the amount of lead and copper in public drinking water, which currently stands at 15 ppb (parts per billion) for lead. However, science (and indeed the EPA) has emphasized that no amount of consumed lead is healthy or safe.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently estimated there are 9.2 million lead pipes carrying water throughout the country. Lead, which is commonly found in paint, ceramics, plumbing materials, gasoline, batteries, and pipes, among other products, has numerous negative health effects if consumed. Adults who consume lead can face high blood pressure, as well as kidney, brain, and reproductive complications. Adults are most commonly exposed to lead through drinking water as well as consumer products. Meanwhile, children who consume lead can face brain damage, slowed growth and development, and even hearing and speech problems. Children are most likely to be exposed to lead through paint dust. To address this long standing problem, the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $15 billion towards replacing lead pipes.

The social and physical costs of lead contamination, such as how lead disproportionately harms poor communities, are relatively easy to see, but it is important to consider the economic consequences as well. From an economic standpoint, health externalities such as kidney or brain complications harm the economy in the form of further burdening the logistics and finances of the healthcare system. Meanwhile, stunting childhood development harms long-term earnings, and some studies believe that lead exposure increases crime.  In 2019, lead exposure cost Maine $226.8 million dollars, Connecticut $984.4 million, Vermont $115.9 million, Massachusetts $2.0 billion, New Hampshire $272.9 million, and Rhode Island $257.1 million. This expense includes costs of reduced lifetime productivity, greater health care, education, social assistance expenditures, and premature mortality. State and federal budgets, as well as the private sector all bear a portion of this cost. Ultimately, the exposure of both children and adults to lead contamination is as much an economic issue as a moral one. 

Although the health problems associated with lead in drinking water have been known since at least the late 1800s, the problem still remains. Lead contamination is a prime example of how environmental and economic issues are very intertwined. Both the private and public sectors should continue working to reduce (and eventually eliminate) lead contamination in both children and adults. Doing so would be wise from both an economic and moral perspective. Overall, while lead poisoning might seem like a moral problem, its economic consequences prove that lead contamination is a multifaceted policy issue worthy of attention.

By Connor Feeney

Works Cited:

El-Dib, I. (2021, November 12). Lead exposure poses threat, especially to children, in Rhode Island. The Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

Frazin, R. (2023, April 4). EPA estimates 9.2 million lead water pipes in US, doles out funding to replace some of them. The Hill. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

 Costa, C. (2022, May 31). All Maine schools are required to test for lead. here’s what they’re finding. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

Emanuel, G. (2023, February 24). Mass. gets a ‘C-‘ in effort to address lead in school drinking water. WBUR News. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

Tan, T. (2023, January 8). Lead water pipes in 300 Bennington homes have been replaced in pioneering project. VTDigger. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

Fleisher, C. (2018, July 13). Get the lead out. American Economic Association. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from 

For parents. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2023, from,optional%3B%20it%20is%20the%20law.

Lloreda, C. L. (2020, January 14). Lead poisoning hits low-income children harder than their affluent neighbors. Massive Science. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from,highlighted%20in%20red%20and%20yellow. 

Altarum. (n.d.). Value of lead prevention. 

Perls, H. (2022, August 10). EPA’s lead and copper rule: Examining challenges and Prospects – Environmental & Energy Law Program. Harvard Law School. 

About Lead. New England Lead Prevention. (n.d.).,built%20before%201978%20contain%20lead.

Lithium Mining: The Economics of the Future

Lithium Mining: The Economics of the Future

The recent discovery of a “world-class” lithium deposit in Newry, Maine, has sparked off a contentious debate over the environmental and economic future of the State. In response to this revelation, a recent bill was proposed to change Maine regulations to allow for unlimited mining for metals of any size, with up to 100 acres per individual location. However, the bill would retain Maine’s regulations requiring developers to prove that there will be no acid mine drainage or harm to water before any mining begins. Currently, Maine only permits open pit metal mining in 3 acre sections. 

Geologists believe the lithium deposit has a value of over $1 billion dollars, presenting Maine with an economic opportunity. The lithium crystals appear to be of very high quality, far surpassing the quality necessary for batteries. Furthermore, the change in regulations will affect the harvesting of other metals considered crucial for the transition to green energy, including a manganese deposit in Aroostook county. This has led to several environmental groups, including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, coming out in support of this regulatory change, while others want the acre limit reduced or outright oppose the relaxation of mining regulations. 

There are also several other bills under consideration by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. These alternatives present a range of options, such as a five-year moratorium on lithium mining, as well as a proposal that would exempt the type of minerals found in Newry from the law altogether. 

At the center of this mining debate is whether or not the definition of “metallic mineral” should be changed. Advocates want to make exemptions for lithium and other metals used in renewable energy. This is because Maine’s quarrying rules are much less stringent, making for a more efficient but less stringent process.

Under current law, “metallic mineral” is a policy definition which depends on what the harvested metals are used for. This makes it difficult to classify minerals on how they might be used in the future. This is especially true in regards to Newry, where the metals would be sold to out of state distributors. 

This topic is a clear example of how environmental and economic issues intersect. The push for sustainable green energy is creating a demand for lithium and other metals. This, in turn, necessitates more mining, which has a negative effect on the environment. Meanwhile, for the State of Maine, taking advantage of these deposits presents economic opportunities at the potential cost of the local environment. In a strange political twist, prominent environmental groups are calling for an expansion to mining and decreased regulations surrounding these metals, making the calculation that the long term economic and environmental benefits outweigh the risks. In conclusion, the national transition towards renewable energy is shaping the economic, cultural, and environmental debate in Maine. It will ultimately be up for the state to decide, but the economic and environmental tradeoffs are fascinating and caught our attention here at rbouvier consulting. If you are interested in this issue, the referenced sources below provide more detail, or contact us directly. 

Works Cited: Cough, K. (2023, April 24). State lawmakers consider removing size limits on open-pit metal mines. Press Herald. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from

Rachel’s Journal Roundup Q1 2023

Rachel’s Journal Roundup Q1 2023

Climate Change and the Farm Business —

This article analyzes the effects of climate change on food production and farm income. Climate change is expected to exacerbate economic, environmental, and biotic (pests/diseases) uncertainties currently present in agriculture. More specifically, the primary focus of the article is the effect of climate variability, subsidies, and farming practices on the stability of food production and farm income. To accomplish this, the study used 929 farms as case studies across England and Wales between 2005-2017. The study found that variability in temperature and rainfall reduces the stability of farm income and food production. Although variability in climate can be largely outside of the farmers’ control, the authors’ findings indicate that proper farm management may be able to mitigate this effect.

The study found that farms with greater agricultural diversity had more stable income. Likewise, bigger farms were found to have greater financial stability due to both economies of scale and greater soil diversity. Climate conditions were found to affect the stability of both farm income and food production. Subsidies, meanwhile, were found to have a minimal impact on the stability of farm income. The study also found that more concentrated farms (those that spend more on fertilizer, pesticide, and concentrated animal feed) had less income stability but more stable levels of food production. Moreover, the benefits of stable food production were found to benefit larger and medium size farms the most. Lastly, farms with high input expenditures were found to be less efficient, implying that although food production increased with more concentration, this did not correlate to additional income stability for farmers. The article recommends several policies to increase income stability without jeopardizing food production, such as reducing input use, diversifying agricultural output through the use of targeted incentives, and increased incentives for precision farming. 

Harkness, C., Areal, F. J., Semenov, M. A., Senapati, N., Shield, I. F., & Bishop, J. (2022, November 24). Towards stability of food production and farm income in a variable climate. Ecological Economics. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

Coastal amenities and Sea level Rise

Igidae Coastal Trail.” by dombrassey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

This article explores the economic value of the sea coast through airbnb comparisons (the price of coastal properties vs. inland properties) across 67 municipalities in the Balearic Islands, Spain. The authors choose the Balearic Islands to study due to its high property value and high erosion risk. The study then discusses how climate change has affected coastal assets, and how action will need to be taken to reverse this trend. Although the study takes place across the Atlantic, the results are applicable in the United States due to the universal fact that humans (especially tourists) value coastal properties, and climate change is of course not limited to coastal Spain. 

The study finds that Airbnb guests are willing to pay a premium for beach length, the presence of vegetation, the type of coastal frontage and whether the beach is in an urban environment. Meanwhile, the type of sand on a beach has virtually no effect on Airbnb prices. The study also mentions the importance of beach width, which by itself does not add much to the beach aesthetic, but provides important resiliency to erosion. The article concludes by mentioning the obvious economic benefits these coastal premiums provide for local communities, and their risk of eroding over time. Measures will need to be taken to preserve not just the coastal value of the Balearic Islands, but coastal areas across the world. 

Boto-Garcia, D., & Leoni, V. (2022, October 1). The Economic Value of Coastal Amenities: Evidence from Beach Capitalization Effects in Peer-to-peer Markets – Environmental and Resource Economics. SpringerLink. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from 

The Value of Dam Removals

This article examines the pros and cons of dam removal in Maine. On one hand, removing a dam  may enhance wildlife by allowing fish passage. On the other hand, dams can provide recreational and economic value to residents, and are even part of local historical identities. Current academic research is largely split on the topic, indicating that there is no general consensus on the issue of dam removal. Furthermore, the process for removing a dam is relatively complex. To study the effect of dam removal, the authors use 75 case studies – the largest sample size to date, and conclude that dam removal has a minimal impact on home value except for properties that are extremely close to the dam in question (100 meters or less). 

Ultimately, the authors believe that dam removal would be beneficial for the environment with minimal economic cost. A limitation of this study is that it focused primarily on rural areas, so the results may not be applicable to urban and suburban environments.

Guilfoos, T., & Walsh, J. (2022, October 7). A Hedonic Study of New England Dam Removals. Ecological Economics. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from 

Marine Tourism Levies?–  

This article outlines the need to adopt a behavioral approach built around marine conservation, specifically a tourism levy, whereby tourists would pay a premium when visiting (and using) the oceans of local communities. Unlike past proposals, whereby the revenue collected would be directly invested into local marine conservation efforts, the authors argue that since tourism is not heavily present in the global south (which would benefit the most from such a tax), the revenue from such a tourism levy should go towards a global marine conservation effort. The article surveys tourists to see if such an idea could work in practice.  The results found that support for a “tourism levy” depended heavily on income and already present beliefs on the environment. Moreover, the study was limited to English speakers, as well as skewed towards wealthier tourists. As such, it is still hard to assess how practical a tourism levy would be. However, it is undeniable that action needs to be taken to address the degradation of marine ecosystems and wildlife. Overall, this article discusses a potential market solution to the proven “commons” problem of marine degradation. 

Booth, H., Mourato, S., & Milner-Gulland, E. J. (2022, August 6). Investigating acceptance of marine tourism levies, to cover the opportunity costs of conservation for Coastal Communities. Ecological Economics. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from 

Water Quality and Property Values–

This article discusses the issue of water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay is the center of a multimillion dollar seafood industry – creating tens of thousands of jobs – and supports one of the largest property markets in the United States. However, despite recent improvements, declining water quality in the Chesapeake bay due to urban and agricultural runoff is putting these economic assets at risk. The article focuses on studying what, if any, correlation exists between water quality and home liquidity. The study collects data from properties within 2 km of the Chesapeake Bay and in either Anne Arundel, Baltimore, or Harford (all counties in Maryland) as well as the city of Baltimore. The authors explain the importance of this study by saying that a failure to account for the effect of water quality of home liquidity would result in policymakers underestimating the economic benefits of clean water – leading to a suboptimal outcome. 

The study found that clean water does correlate with higher home liquidity. The correlation increased the closer houses were to the Chesapeake Bay, but was present at all distances. This was determined primarily by sellers getting more for their homes with less time on the market compared to areas with lower water quality. Shorter listing periods are beneficial to sellers in the form of reduced stress and less holding expenses. Home prices were also higher for houses closer to the Chesapeake Bay. Overall, the study suggests that the benefits from water quality improvement are 13.3% higher when effects on liquidity are considered alongside property value increases. Overall, this study provides an important and underreported perspective on the economic benefits of improving water quality.

Irwan, N., & Wolf, D. (2022, May 25). Time is money: Water quality’s impact on home liquidity and property values. Ecological Economics. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from