UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Andrew Steck, Duke University

Industry Dynamics with Social Learning: Evidence from Hydraulic Fracturing

Date and Location

Monday, January 29, 2018, 10:30 AM - 11:50 AM
Giannini Library Conference Room, 4101 Social Sciences and Humanities


I model the interaction between dynamic decision making and social learning about new tech- nologies in driving industry takeoff and productivity growth. Learning about the use of new technologies is an important factor in economic growth, but I demonstrate that anticipated so- cial learning can lead to a free-riding dynamic in scenarios with high uncertainty. I consider the empirical setting of hydraulic fracturing in North Dakota, where firms learn about the optimal use of fracturing technology, in part due to detailed data published by regulators. The cumula- tive value of this learning process is a ceteris paribus 40% increase in expected profitability. I model the impact of learning externalities on agents’ decisions to drill shale oil wells, an optimal stopping problem. My estimates suggest that the social learning externality is too small to affect investment as the industry develops and uncertainty is reduced. Conversely, I demonstrate that under higher uncertainty, anticipated social learning can lead to significantly lower industry investment and learning rates. Under this scenario, I also demonstrate the potential for public tests of the technology to enhance welfare by leading to more investment and a higher learning rate.

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