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Study: How does Marcellus royalty money affect your kids?

Shane Thielges | Shale Plays Media

Penn State has received a $150,000 Russell Sage Foundation grant to study the effects of Marcellus Shale drilling on children’s welfare.

The study’s goal is to examine how multiple factors influence the well-being of growing children, both separately and in conjunction with each other. To do so, it will analyze data from high- and low-income families in both Pennsylvania, where hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is widespread, and New York, where the practice is banned. This will allow researchers to measure the influence of drilling royalty payments.

According to the sociologist, imagine two families living in the same Pennsylvania community: the Joneses and the Smiths. Their children go to the same schools, and their families attend the same church. The Joneses own a lot of land and have leased many acres for natural gas drilling, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Smiths have gained nothing from the Marcellus Shale.

Compare this pair to two families in the state of New York. Their lives and communities appear similar to the Joneses and the Smiths, but they cannot receive any royalty payments due to the state ban, said Martin. The team will compare the equivalent of these four families and how they change over time using governmental data about Pennsylvania and New York school districts. The team will test whether increasing the average amount of “mailbox money” in a school district is associated with improvements in the average level of children’s health and well-being in that district, as well as how that pattern changes over time.

The Russell Sage Foundation awards grants to projects aimed at improving the social and living conditions in the U.S. The study will be led by Molly Martin, associate professor of sociology and demography at Penn State. Martin said studies of this nature typically only measure the impact of a single variable, such as income or family values, which can lead to incomplete or misguided conclusions.

See the original Penn State News story: Researchers will study family income and well-being of children in two states

Related: USGS to study Williston Basin water quality


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