Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Resource Economics & Management

Committee Chair

Alan Collins

Committee Co-Chair

Paul Kinder

Committee Member

Lauri Andress

Committee Member

Xiaoli Etienne


This dissertation consists of three essays in spatial and regional economics. In the first essay, high rates of chronic diseases and increasing nutritional polarization between different income groups in the United States are shown to be issues that should concern policymakers and public health officials. Spatial differences in access to food are evaluated as the cause of these nutritional inequalities. In this essay, hot and cold spots for food providers are determined throughout the state of West Virginia and then those places are used in a quasi-experimental method (entropy balancing) to study the effects of hot and cold spots on diabetes and obesity rates. Although hot spots are found to have lower rates of chronic diseases than non-hot spots and cold spots have higher rates of chronic diseases than non-cold spots—the situation is complicated. For example, the findings of income-induced chronic disease rates in urban areas, where most hot spots are located, is evidence for ”food swamps” in these areas. Conversely, cold spots (located mainly in rural areas) have higher rates of chronic diseases which are attributed to a combination of access to food providers along with lacking the means (i.e., income for low-income households) to form healthier habits.

In the second essay, the motives of both traditional and Chinese Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Africa are examined and then quantified to what extent Chinese FDIs spatially crowd in or crowd out other traditional FDIs. The countries of the United States, France, and the Netherlands are traditional investors in Africa, while China is relatively new, but swiftly expanding its investments. Spatial dynamic panel models are implemented where the colonial heritage of African countries is used to spatially link countries due to similar socio-economic and institutional settings. French and Dutch Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) in Africa are found to opt for vertical integration strategies while Chinese MNEs serve as export platforms to third country markets. No spatial interdependencies of American investments are found in Africa. Furthermore, Chinese investments are observed to crowd out American and Dutch investments. While no crowd out/in effects are found between Chinese and French FDI, the conclusion is that the two countries are currently in competition with one another in Africa.

Finally, the third essay involves localized effects of ethanol plants in the states of Indiana and Illinois on enrolled Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, and total planted corn acreage after passage of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act with its implementation of Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) mandating ethanol in gasoline. Using a Difference-in-Difference (DID) method at the state level provides inaccurate global effects i.e. the results of this model show that both enrolled CRP and total planted corn acres increased after this mandate. However, when a Synthetic Control Method (SCM) is utilized to treat each ethanol plant as a case study, spatial and temporal post-ethanol mandate effects are shown to be heterogeneous. Land use at the extensive margin varies by county and post-intervention years. The conclusion is that the global findings from a DID model are misleading since they show acreage increases, whereas, the localized effects found using a SCM are more suited to understanding the heterogenous land-use changes that occurred at the county level due to RFS mandates.