Oil and Gas Development and Infant Health in Colorado
Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:25 PM
Tuttle Prefunction (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The benefits and costs of resource extraction are currently being hotly debated in the case of shale gas development (commonly known as "fracking"). The policy debate around drilling activity is very polarized between the employment, income and community benefits and the environmental health concerns related to drilling operations. Colorado provides a unique research environment given its long history of conventional oil and gas extraction and, most recently, shale gas development. This paper uses Colorado to explore health at birth implications of shale plays and explores the risks associated with all forms of drilling. The immediate outcomes of interest are infant health at birth measures (term birth weight, gestation length, low birth weight, premature birth and small for gestational age). To define exposure, I utilize detailed vital statistics and mother's residential address to define close proximity to drilling activity. Using a difference-in-differences approach, this paper compares health at birth of infants born to residences within 1 km of the well head versus 1-5 km to identify the impact of drilling. Exploiting both the inter-temporal and cross-sectional variance in the presence of resource extraction in Colorado, I find that proximity to wells reduces birth weight and gestation length, on average and increases the prevalence of low birth weight, premature birth and small for gestational age.