Conference Paper- Pass the Books. Hold the Oil: Is There a Link Between Natural Resources and Educational Attainment- Implications and Ideas for Further Research

In my last two posts I have discussed both the conceptual framework and the findings of a conference paper I recently wrote with a colleague which looked at the link between statewide natural resources and educational attainment.

In this final post on the paper I will highlight the possible implications of the findings as well as discuss ideas for further reasearch.

Implications of Findings

The primary implication which can be drawn from the findings reported above is that states that wish to increase the percentage of the adult population with a postsecondary credential should research the signals being produced by sectoral employment in their state and, more importantly, their dependence upon natural resources. As illustrated in the regression model cited in the paper, the number of employees in the mining sector had a significant negative regression weight on the percentage of the adult population with an associate’s degree or higher. It is plausible that this is due to the fact that many citizens choose to forego postsecondary education when their local economy only supports employment in industries which very often do not require postsecondary training. This hypothesis is also supported by the findings in our chi-square analysis, which showed that approximately 80% of states receiving an “A” from The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education for accrued benefits to the state from postsecondary education attainment were also in the lowest quartile of natural resource dependency.

Ideas for Further Research

The inclusion of more independent variables for greater model specification is needed. Therefore, further research should broaden the scope of the analysis to include independent variables and even rival hypotheses that better explain the variability in the dependent variables. Possible independent variables might include, but are not limited to, in-migration rate of educated workers from other states, dollar value of tax subsidies per capita granted to mining industries, a ratio of tax dollars per capita derived from mining activities to dollars spent per capita on higher education operating expenses.

The expansion of the study into a longitudinal analysis covering several years would also aid in greater model specification. The databases utilized to obtain data on natural resources in this analysis contained data dating back to the 1960’s. The data utilized from the Measuring Up, 2008 report, however, was not available for multiple years, therefore, another data base would need to be identified and utilized to obtain educational attainment variables for a longitudinal analysis.

The literature which informed our conceptual framework said that under certain circumstances, a high level of human capital can offset the negative effects of natural resource dependency produced by the other four channels of transmission (Bravo-Ortega, 2005). In other words, an investment in human capital accumulation can, in the long-term, more than offset the expected negative effect of natural resource dependence on growth. States that do receive large sums of revenue from their natural resource endowments should consider strategically investing in education if they wish to enjoy the benefits of long term economic growth. With the discovery of shale oil reserves, several states will in the next few years have the opportunity to leverage large sums of tax revenue derived from mining activities for economic growth. Therefore, any further research in this area should endeavor to study the ability of human capital investment to offset the established negative effects of natural resource dependency.

This concludes my very short series on this conference paper. I hope you enjoyed it. I will now return to my more typical book recommendations and critiques of higher ed news.

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