Essays on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

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This dissertation is an empirical study of the livestock industry and its environmental impacts on residents. Concentrated animal feeding operations, abbreviated as CAFOs, are livestock production facilities where large numbers of animals are raised in confined spaces. Although the hog and poultry industries provide jobs and economic benefits, they also produce significant air pollution, contaminate waterways, and affect people's quality of life. North Carolina (NC) is currently the third largest hog producing state in the nation and also hosts a high concentration of poultry farms. Most of the animal farms are located in the eastern area of the state, which is also the area where many low-income people and people of color (POC) reside.

Because of environmental pollution produced by CAFOs, local real estate markets could be affected. Chapter 4 examines how having CAFOs nearby could affect housing price. In this co-authored paper, we utilize housing transaction data from CoreLogic and study the impacts of CAFOs on housing price. We consider co-location of hogs and poultry and separately examine the impacts for houses on private wells and community water systems as water contamination is channeled as an important exposure route. Results show significant housing price reductions for nearby housing properties. The costs increase disproportionately for really large CAFO exposure and are even larger for the houses with private wells. We find that being exposed to the highest levels of exposure to hogs could cause housing price decreases ranging from 13% to 50% for houses with private wells, while only a 13% to 27% price decrease for community-water-dependent houses, depending on the distance between CAFOs and the residential property.

In NC, most of the farms are located in the eastern region, where many communities of color and low-income populations live, and such high concentration raises environmental justice concerns. Chapter 5 explores the relationship between race and income and exposure to CAFOs. In this co-authored paper, we collect information on both hog and poultry farms, use novel micro-data from InfoUSA, and investigate how exposure varies by both income and race. We find POC are more likely to be exposed to both hogs and poultry. Results show strong evidence of high exposure for low-income Hispanic households, compared to white households. Higher income helps reduce the exposure gap for Hispanics, but does not similarly help Black residents, suggesting such uneven exposure patterns are more related to race other than class.

Climate change brings another challenge to CAFOs. During the past two hurricane events in NC, Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Florence (2018), CAFOs caused large damages to local communities and contaminated neighborhood drinking water sources. In my job market paper, I first use individual demographic data from InfoUSA to examine household's out-migration behaviors after floods. Results suggest floods make people move out, especially for those with CAFOs around or with private wells. Besides out-migration behaviors, this study also examines how household race and income composition change after floods. Results show more lower-income and POC households move into flooded areas, especially places near animal farms, after floods. Such migration patterns highlight equity concerns under climate change and in the future hurricane events.





Ma, Yu (2023). Essays on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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