Projects

A unified approach for analyzing socioeconomic impacts from meteorological, technological, and economic shocks

End Date: 06/01/15

Abstract

Historically, there have been a number of threats and disturbances negatively affecting the working waterfront economy.  In particular, expanding population and subsequent land use competition has increased land values and altered land use patterns.  Without proper planning, demand for condominiums and recreation-based waterfront access have the potential to out compete working waterfront (WWF) businesses so that fishers, seafood processors, and other locally-owned water dependent businesses are displaced.  Sectoral job losses along working waterfronts can negatively affect long-time local, resource dependent, residents and small businesses.  Recent meteorological, economic and technological disturbances may have caused structural economic shifts in waterfront communities, which spillover into the broader state economies as a result of reduced tax revenues from decreased coastal tourism and decreased consumption of Gulf seafood.

We propose to address two specific focus areas for the MASGC the 2012-2013 funding program:  Sustainable Coastal Development and Safe and Sustainable Seafood Supply.  For the states of Alabama and Mississippi, we will assess past, current and future socioeconomic disturbances to working waterfronts; conduct an economic impact study of working waterfronts in Alabama and Mississippi; determine public perception of Gulf of Mexico seafood safety and its health benefits; and examine attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of commercial fishermen and their respective supply chain.

Our interdisciplinary research team represents the disciplines of economics, geography, rural sociology, and fisheries.  Our skill sets includes non-market valuation; urban, regional, and resource economics; commodity chains and food safety governance; resource dependency; and community development.   We will thus conduct a geographic information system of the working waterfront; administer surveys of the working waterfront and of willingness to pay to travel to the coast for tourism; we will conduct a shrimp supply chain case study; analyze the data gathered; and estimate a 2-state input-output model of direct and indirect economic impacts of the coastal economy.

Objectives

Our overarching objective is to establish baseline economic conditions for Alabama and Mississippi waterfront-related businesses in 2012. To carry out this objective we intend:

  • To update our previous Working Waterfronts Inventory (Hite et al., 2008; Byrd et al., 2009).
  • To expand the working waterfront inventory to Baldwin County in Alabama and Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock Counties in Mississippi.

Our second objective is to understanding the impact of disturbances on coastal tourism. To carry out this goal we intend:

  • To survey coastal travelers to determine how their spending on Mississippi and Alabama travel has changed (Travel Cost Model).
  • To survey travelers to the Mississippi and Alabama coast to assess their beliefs about the safety of Gulf seafood and/or its health benefits.

Our third objective is to understand how the impact of disturbances on actors in the seafood sector. To carry out this goal we intend:

  • To examine the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of Mississippi and Alabama stakeholders about the challenges faced, defensive actions taken, and extent of recovery following disturbance.
  • To determine stakeholders future business plans and their views on the industry’s future. 

Our last objective is to determine the short, medium and long term economic impacts, as well as the direct (i.e., associated with primary industries) and indirect (i.e., associated with the way direct expenditures flow through the economy by way of local workers’ expenditures) impacts of disturbance on the statewide economics of Alabama and Mississippi. To carry out this goal we intend:

  • To implement a set of well-established methods including surveys and interviews, econometric and statewide input-output models, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS);
  • To develop an integrated analysis of the impacts of repeated severe weather, the recession, global trade, and the DWH disaster on socioeconomic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Methodology

We will use a mixture of well-established socioeconomic methodologies reflecting the strengths of the assembled research team, including surveys and interviews, econometric and statewide input-output models, and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  The basic platform on which all of our research will be combined is the Working Waterfront (WWF) survey of businesses and GIS.  We will simultaneously conduct a travel cost model survey that includes traveler’s’ attitudes toward seafood safety and a set of seafood case studies, both of which are designed to tie directly into the WWF survey and with each other. 

The main methods for the WWF platform are a direct mail survey and GIS.  The survey population is the universe of waterfront-dependent businesses/industries in Alabama and Mississippi; these are to be identified through online sources, existing databases of Chambers of Commerce, and through interactions with stakeholders and facilitators located along the coast.  The GIS, which includes the footprints of identified businesses/industries and other spatially explicit data, will be dependent on the identification and verification of existing businesses/industries obtained through the initial stages of the survey.

The Travel Cost Model (TCM) is a well-known, survey-based methodology.  The survey will be conducted via mail and internet surveys based on contact lists from coastal visitors and convention bureaus as well as from AL and MS state tourism offices.  The TCM offers the most suitable means to estimate willingness to pay for tourism, and to measure the negative impact of recent disturbances including the impact of seafood safety concerns on travel expenditures.  Generally speaking, WTP captures additional benefits to tourists above and beyond the amount they spend on leisure tourism; that is, it is the difference between a demand curve estimated by the data and the actual expenditures made traveling between residence and tourist destination.  The completed surveys will be coded and entered into a database, and we will match the expenditures to the WWF GIS.  However, the primary analysis will consist of an econometric model to estimate a demand curve for coastal AL and MS from which WTP is derived.  The model will include variables that will allow us to ‘shift’ the demand curve from recent disturbances, thereby enabling us to measure the extent of societal economic damages.

We will conduct seafood industry case studies. An interview guide with probes will be developed based on the existing literature and key stakeholder input.  Investigators will meet with several key informants to review, adjust, and pretest the interview guide and to make an initial selection of supply chain actors.  Face-to-face interviews with targeted segments of the seafood industry will be conducted, and consumer data (e.g., seafood buying behavior, desired seafood characteristics, seafood safety concerns) will be collected as part of the tourism survey. Each research participant will complete a customized version of the WWF survey geared to capture standard sociodemographic information prior to the interview and referred to during the interview.  All interview data will be transcribed, digitized, and entered into a computer assisted qualitative data analysis program for coding and quantification, then uploaded to the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and combined with the relevant data from WWF and tourism surveys for analysis using nonparametric statistics and possibly analysis using limited dependent variables models.

We will use data from our surveys to estimate losses from the WWF and Tourism sectors to the extent possible, and then use an input-output analysis to estimate state-wide direct and indirect economic impacts.  Among the direct effects, the most important will be employment within the sectors; indirect effects will measure the way that other sectors of the economy are affected.  For example, fewer people traveling to the coast will affect small businesses like gas stations and convenience stores that are well beyond the coastal region.  The results of the model will allow us to estimate statewide multiplier impacts for Alabama and Mississippi and sectoral losses in the coastal economy, which will help state level policymakers understand the magnitude of potential economic gains that can be made by focusing on recovery of these sectors.

Rationale

Historically, there have been a number of threats and disturbances negatively affecting the working waterfront economy.  In particular, expanding population and subsequent land use competition has increased land values and altered land use patterns.  Without proper planning, demand for condominiums and recreation-based waterfront access, which tend to be associated with tourism, including Casinos in the case of Mississippi, have the potential to out compete working waterfront (WWF) businesses so that fishers, seafood processors, and other locally-owned water dependent businesses are displaced.  Sectoral job losses along working waterfronts can negatively affect long-time local, resource dependent, residents and small businesses.  Recent meteorological, economic and technological disturbances may have caused structural economic shifts in waterfront communities, which has direct and indirect impacts on the broader state economies.

The extent of interplay among the waterfront, seafood, and tourism sectors has not been analyzed in an integrated way, and it is thus unknown how combined sectors are impacted by changes in social, cultural and economic structures.  Moreover, issues that arise may be exacerbated when community planning does not consider the needs of all stakeholders.  For instance, today’s Planners must look beyond the local to consider global impacts on their community. The seafood industry provides a particularly notable example as their markets have been significantly eroded by imports. As local businesses exit the market it may open additional waterfront real estate to uses that may not be compatible with the goals of working waterfronts.  Therefore, we propose to use a multi-methods approach to perform an integrated analysis of the socioeconomic impacts of Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the Great Recession on local waterfront economies in Alabama and Mississippi. By identifying and analyzing the challenges and synergies that exist, our proposal will help to direct responses to future disasters, preserve rural communities, and aid local policy makers formulate plans for future growth and change.