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Impacts of unconventional gas development on rural community decline

1 Jan 2013

In this paper we look at the impacts of a new industry, namely unconventional gas, on rural decline. Rural decline is defined as comprising loss of rural youth, reduced human capital and increasing rural poverty. Since the start of the current century, the unconventional gas industry has been expanding around the world, often in close proximity to pre-existing agricultural communities. The implications of this new industry represent a growing area of interest in rural studies. We contribute to this new research area through a case study of coal seam gas (CSG) development in Queensland, Australia, comparing locations where gas development has occurred between 2001 and 2011 against a control group of similar regions without gas development.

A key finding of the study is that regions with CSG development have experienced a growing youth population share and, of particular note, a growing female youth population share, which is unlikely to be explained by non-resident workforces alone. CSG regions had mildly more educated populations, but only amongst men. Poverty reduction was also observed in CSG regions, concentrated primarily in specific locations.

The extensive spatial footprint of unconventional gas and increased female youth populations indicate a diversion from traditional boomtown effects in previous energy booms. Taken together, the results show signs of mitigating (and in some cases reversing) rural community decline.

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