Public Education Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

This report reviews the economic literature examining the effect of unconventional oil and gas development on public education via three main channels—student population, school finances, and the labor market.



June 23, 2017


Laura Zachary and Nathan Ratledge



Reading time

1 minute


Figure 1. Linkages from an Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Boom and Student Achievement in Local Communities

Source: Adapted from Marchand and Weber (2015; Figure 1).

Key findings

  • We review 15 studies that cover a range of education outcomes: student enrollment and demographics, student-teacher ratios, school finances (changes to revenue and expenditure streams), teacher turnover, and educational attainment.
  • Existing literature that pools data across many plays masks interpretation of the impacts that vary substantially across states; research that distinguishes across individual states appears far more telling.
  • Student enrollment trends diverge across regions. Western boom districts across Texas, North Dakota, and Montana, experienced increases in enrollment, whereas student numbers decreased in eastern states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
  • Funding per student varies based on the ability of districts to tax oil and gas based on production, how these taxes interact with state education funding formulas, local pressures on how to spend revenue windfalls, and restrictions on saving.
  • To draw conclusions about the effect of fracking booms on education outcomes and to inform relevant policy, more research is needed that employs both statistical and qualitative methods to understand nuances lost in commonly collected education data.


Laura Zachary

Nathan Ratledge

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