Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Whither the American West? Natural Amenities, Energy and Nonmetropolitan County Growth

Rickman, Dan S. and Wang, Hongbo (2018): Whither the American West? Natural Amenities, Energy and Nonmetropolitan County Growth.

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Abstract

The American West has long experienced strong economic growth. The varied economy of the region though has produced a diversity of economic outcomes and trends. In this paper, we assess whether there have been significant relative shifts in economic growth across the nonmetropolitan counties of the region between the periods of 1992-2004 and 2004-2016. We find significant relative downward growth shifts in areas most abundant in natural amenities. Further analysis suggests the downward growth shifts in high amenity counties resulted from the capitalization of the amenities into housing costs, not from diminished quality of life in the counties. Economic growth significantly accelerated in counties where significant oil and gas extractive activity occurred, in which most of the counties were not previously considered as highly dependent on the energy industry. Counties with low levels of natural amenities and an absence of oil and gas resources continued to struggle and are suggested to likely be in need of place-based labor demand policies.

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