Estimating Migration to Pennsylvania Counties Due to Marcellus Shale Drilling Activity

Open Access
Kelly, Andrew Paul
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 07, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Mark R Leach, Thesis Advisor
  • Dr Diane Mc Laughlin, Thesis Advisor
  • Dr Kathy Brasier, Thesis Advisor
  • Marcellus
  • migration
  • boomtown
  • population
  • Census
  • Pennsylvania
In 2003, the first natural gas well was drilled into the Marcellus Shale in Washington County, Pennsylvania. From then to the beginning of 2010, over 1,200 wells were drilled across Pennsylvania. This type of rapid natural extraction has occurred in other parts of the country, and there is extensive literature about this “boomtown” phenomenon. However, most of the prior research has focused on the social impacts of rapid population change rather than attempting to quantify the change that has taken place. Due to the unique nature of economic development associated with natural resource extraction development, current methods of population estimation may fail to fully capture the population change which is occurring. Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates for Pennsylvania counties, I find that after controlling for other factors that may affect population change and county population estimate accuracy, net migration estimates between 2000 and 2010 are underestimated relatively more in the northeastern counties of Pennsylvania, which is where most of the drilling activity has taken place thus far. This may indicate that population change is occurring at a rate faster than expected in this area and that population estimates are not fully capturing the change in this region. The same cannot be said for the southwestern counties of the state, which have also experienced extensive drilling activity. Considering the Bureau’s population estimates are used for allocating funds related to various government programs, these findings have important implications for state and local government agencies in areas which have experienced drilling activity, as well as those which expect to in the future.