Austin Zwick, Planning PhD Student

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Home Campus:
U of T St. George

PhD:
Planning, University of Toronto (expected 2018)

Other Degrees:
• MPA in Public Finance and Fiscal Policy, Cornell University
• BS in Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University

Cross Appointments:
Graduate Fellow at the Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG), Munk School

Honours & Awards:
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Dissertation Fellowship
American Studies Scholarship

Supervisor(s):
Jason Hackworth

Contact Information:

Email: austin.zwick@mail.utoronto.ca

Research Interests:

  • Economic Decline and Revitalization
  • Platform Economy (Uber, AirBnB, etc.)
  • Regional Economic Growth
  • Municipal Finance
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Energy Policy

Resource Boom to Revitalization: How does fracking affect patterns of economic decline and revitalization in Northern Appalachia?

Small cities in Appalachia have been battling an ongoing struggle against economic decline for decades, but now some find themselves amidst a new natural resource boom. The technological innovation of hydraulic fracturing drilling, commonly known as ‘fracking’, has revolutionized global energy markets overnight, creating a gap of understanding about its local implications in the process. Most early research focused on documenting the environmental risks of fracking, but little work has gone into understanding its local economic impacts. Some scholars find that agglomeration economies based on the fossil fuel extraction industry may provide a solid foundation for future economic growth even after the gas dries up, while others argue that resource extraction occurs in boom-bust cycles dependent upon volatile international markets and therefore existing communities would be better off leaving the fossil fuels in the ground. The relationship between natural resource development and economic stagnation is commonly known as the ‘natural resource curse’. In addition, resource extraction communities operating on the boom-bust cycle struggle with inadequate social and health services to deal with overarching community crises of depression, family stress, violence toward women, and addiction issues. As municipalities grapple with these challenges by using rising tax revenue to add administrative capacity, increase staffing levels, buy equipment, and hire outside expertise, the boom-bust cycle becomes reflected on their balance sheets, putting their fiscal health at risk. This leads to the primary research question: How does the hydraulic fracturing resource boom affect existing patterns of economic decline and revitalization in Appalachia?

Teaching This Academic Year:

  • CITC15: Public Finance in Canadian Cities
  • CITC16:  Planning and Governing the Metropolis