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Research Projects

The Effects of Drinking Water Contamination on Birth Outcomes: New Estimates from Drinking Water Samples

(Richard W DiSalvo, Elaine L Hill)

  • We estimate the effects of drinking water contamination on public health in the United States using difference-in-differences empirical designs.
  • We measure public health and water contamination using birth records and sampling results, respectively, using large administrative datasets.
  • We inform public drinking water regulation by proposing a simplification of consumer confidence reports.

drinking water graph

Implications of Squeaky Wheels: Environmental Justice in Oil and Gas Regulatory Compliance

(Richard W DiSalvo, Elaine L Hill, Lujia Zhang)

  • We examine the consequences for environmental justice of systems where citizen complaints play a role in when and where regulations are enforced.
  • We present a game based on matching pennies played between the regulator and firm, with the neighbors’ involvement, and derive comparative static predictions.
  • We examine evidence for our model in the context of Pennsylvanian oil and gas wells. We find that complaints are informative, and that wells operating near poorer residents are inspected less often yet are more likely to be caught violating regulations conditional on being inspected.

squeaky wheels chart

Public or Private Prices? The Case of Oil and Gas Leasing

(Katie Bisson, Richard W DiSalvo, and Elaine L Hill)

  • We study price disclosure in oil and gas leasing, with a focus on royalty rates paid to Pennsylvanian mineral owners.
  • We consider two questions: First, can knowledge of past royalty rates of neighbors predict an individual’s current royalty rate? Second, given that parties to a lease have the option of hiding royalty rates, why are royalty rates publicly revealed so often?
  • To study these questions, we empirically examine lease-level data as well as discuss the implications of bargaining models with one-sided asymmetric information.

Leasing chart

Unconventional natural gas development and hospitalizations: evidence from Pennsylvania, United States, 2003–2014

 (Alina Denham, Mary Willis, Alexis Zavez, and Elaine L Hill)

  • In this exploratory study focused on Pennsylvania, we examined associations of unconventional gas wells drilled and hospitalization rates at the county level, using the universe of hospitalizations in the state in 2003-2014. We examined hospitalizations for all major diagnosis groups.
  • We found that cumulative drilling is associated with hospitalizations for genitourinary and skin-related conditions. The association with genitourinary diseases was driven by females 20-64y.o. and specific genitourinary conditions shown in the Table below (hospitalization rate is per 10,000 females in this age group).
  • This study is the first large-scale exploratory study of cumulative and contemporaneous drilling and hospitalizations for all major diagnosis groups. It was important to do in order to identify health conditions that may be affected by unconventional gas development that are not hypothesized to be affected a priori.