Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Resource Economics & Management

Committee Chair

Heather Stephens

Committee Co-Chair

Joshua Hall

Committee Member

Joshua Hall

Committee Member

Daniel Grossman

Committee Member

Xiaoli Etienne


The body of work presented here consists of a collection of research projects developed during my time as a graduate student at West Virginia University. As will soon become apparent, this collection of research topics is quite eclectic. This is, in part, due to the to the nature of the research process itself--where one often begins by asking one question and ends by answering a completely different one--but also due to the fact that my time at West Virginia University has provided me the opportunity to gain insight into a wide variety of economic fields as well as work on a variety of interesting and exciting projects. In any case, it is my hope that the diversity of topics will not overly impair the reader’s enjoyment of what I believe to be otherwise interesting explorations of timely research questions.

Chapter 1 presents research examining the connection between socioeconomic status and obesity in the United States. Though this relationship has been firmly established in the literature, little attention has been paid to what effect a changein socioeconomic status has on obesity prevalence. As part of the “American Dream” is socioeconomic mobility, it remains an interesting and, to date, little examined research question: what impact does a change in socioeconomic status have on an individual’s obesity? Analysis conducted utilizing a confidential, geo-coded and nationally-representative sample of individuals from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth suggest that individuals who move from a lower to a higher socioeconomic group are less likely to be obese. This suggests that upward socioeconomic movement has multiple, positive effects that manifest in better health outcomes.

In Chapter 2 we shift away from health outcomes research and instead examine a public economics question related to municipal government formation and property values, namely: what impact does municipal incorporation—that is, new city formation—have on residential property values? Though the literature contains several examples of research examining the effect of special municipal districts on property values—such as home owner’s associations and school districts—very little research exists examining the effect of new city formation on property values. Analysis conducted on four new cities in Riverside County, California using fifteen years of housing transactions data suggests that, in contrast to previous research, municipal incorporation did not result in an increase in housing values. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the potential regional factors contributing to this interesting result.

Chapter 3 circles back to health economics research by examining another ongoing public health crisis in the United States: the opioid epidemic. The State of West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, with opioid overdose deaths accounting for the overwhelming majority of overdose deaths in the state. Thus, it is unsurprising that West Virginia and the greater Appalachian area in general, are generally considered to be “ground zero” of the national opioid epidemic. That said, previous research examining this complex issue has utilized aggregated death certificate data that inherently precludes an individual-level component to any econometric analysis. The analysis presented in this chapter, however, is based on confidential, individual-level death certificate data obtained from the state of West Virginia and represents the first analysis conducted at the individual level. This micro-level data allows for the examination of both the individual and sub-county local characteristics associated with opioid overdose deaths across the state. Analysis of these West Virginian death certificates suggests that individual employment in certain industries—such as coal mining and construction—is associated with a higher risk of opioid overdose death. Results also suggest that medication diversion across several different medical professions is potentially contributing to opioid deaths in those industries. Further, a spatial analysis of the effect of industry-specific employment growth across zip codes generates results suggesting that the effect of local employment growth on opioid overdose deaths varies both across industries and space. The chapter concludes with some brief comments and discussion of potential policy implications.