Opportunity, ambivalence, and youth perspectives on community change in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region

Kai A. Schafft, Catharine Biddle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Across vast swaths of mostly rural Pennsylvania, dramatic social, economic, and environmental transformations have occurred in the last five years as these regions have experienced a new natural resource boom in the form of unconventional natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale formation. While Pennsylvania's former Governor, Tom Corbett, and shale industry advocates hailed these developments as an economic godsend for Pennsylvania, others have raised serious concerns about the potential social, environmental, and economic consequences. In this paper, we examine youth perspectives in shale gas communities and how young people weigh their education and future prospects in light of local economic, environmental, and community change. We find that youth career decisions are often characterized by a deep ambivalence about the gas industry, its longevity, its capacity to provide desirable and local employment, and its ultimate effects on the livability and social sustainability of Pennsylvania's shale gas communities, complicating pro-industry and neoliberal narratives of opportunity and economic development. This ambivalence raises critical questions about the effects of new labor market opportunities on the educational, career, and residential aspirations of youth within areas of high drilling and gas extraction activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-85
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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