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Research News from NERCRD

A collection of news items about research conducted at the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

While lifestyle choices and genetics go a long way toward predicting longevity, a new study shows that certain community characteristics also play important roles. American communities with more fast food restaurants, a larger share of extraction industry-based jobs, or higher population density have shorter life expectancies, according to researchers from Penn State, West Virginia, and Michigan State Universities. Their findings can help communities identify and implement changes that may promote longer lifespans among their residents.

Craft breweries aren't just a fun place to meet up with friends. They may be fueling an unprecedented geographic expansion of hop production across the U.S., according to researchers at Penn State and The University of Toledo. Their findings suggest that as more craft breweries emerge around the country, so may new opportunities for farmers.

Conventional measures of innovation suggest that only big cities foster new ideas, but a more comprehensive measure developed at the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development shows that innovation is widespread even in rural places not typically thought of as innovative. This "hidden" innovation brings economic benefits to businesses and communities, according to researchers, whose findings will help decision makers think in new ways about innovation and how they can support it.

A new way of measuring how relationships in a network change over time can reveal important details about the network, according to researchers at the Northeast Regional Center and the Korean Rural Economic Institute. For example, when applied to the world economy, the method detected the greatest amount of network change during 2008-09, the time of the global financial crisis.

For a new food hub to succeed, it should be located in a community with a population sufficient to sustain it, according to a team of economists, who found that a county seeking to establish its first food hub needs roughly 182,000 residents for that food hub to break even. Their findings could help funding agencies establish criteria to determine whether and where new food hubs should be added.

The Appalachian communities that enjoyed persistent economic growth following the 2008 Great Recession have a number of factors in common, according to researchers who analyzed all 420 counties in the Appalachian region. Their findings will help guide future economic development strategies across Appalachia.

After seven years of analyzing a number of consumption, distribution, production, and other aspects of the Northeast U.S. food system, researchers from Penn State and 10 other universities and organizations have made significant gains in understanding the extent to which the region can increase production of certain foods, and potentially better meet the food needs of low-income populations in the locations they studied. Findings and outputs from the project, which concluded earlier this year, will be useful to food system planners, policy makers, researchers and advocates interested in advancing regional food systems.

Companies that invest heavily in research and development are more likely to benefit from locating near dissimilar businesses, while companies that invest less in technology are better off near businesses in their own industry, according to new research by a team of economists. The findings can help business owners and policy makers design better business strategies and economic policies.

The farther away from a city a person is raised, the more likely they are to climb the economic ladder, according to economists, who also found that community characteristics associated with upward mobility actually have different effects in rural and urban locations.

Poor mental health ranks as one of the costliest forms of sickness for U.S. workers and may sap billions of dollars from the country's income growth, according to a team of researchers including Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development staff.

A research team led by Northeast Center Director Stephan Goetz will receive $500,000 over three years to study innovation in rural communities and find ways for communities to support rural entrepreneurs.

World Cup football teams with a higher proportion of players smiling in their official portraits have scored more goals on average in all group phases since 1970. The authors of this study argue that smiling is a reflection of confidence. Greater confidence results in a greater capacity to overcome complex situations and score more goals. Center Director Stephan Goetz and his colleague David A. Fleming-Muñoz decided to explore whether this same smiling-creativity link holds for entire societies by looking at the relationship between happiness and creative capacity. (Links to article published in The Conversation.)

From entrepreneurs' use of Twitter to the impacts of a popular Extension program, several newly published manuscripts co-authored by NERCRD staff shed light on a wide range of community and economic development topics.

Investing in education may help boost economic opportunities for the next generation, according to a team of economists including Northeast Center Director Stephan Goetz.

A paper titled "The Economic Status of Rural America in the President Trump Era and beyond" was published this month in a special issue of Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy and was authored by Center Director Stephan Goetz, Mark Partridge (Ohio State University), and Heather Stephens (West Virginia University). The special issue is a collection of papers around the theme “The Future of Agricultural and Applied Economics,” and is the culmination of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Agenda and Priorities initiative. The authors review the current economic conditions of rural America and the current literature, in order to set the stage for future research aimed at developing public policies that support economic prosperity in rural areas.