Research

Peer Reviewed Publications

10. “Can We Foster the Future of Extension Through (Friendly) Competition? The Past, Present, and Future of the Graduate Student Extension Competition.” Applied Economics Teaching Resources Special Issue on Extension Education. Coauthors: Carlos A. Fontanilla-Diaz, Kate Binzen Fuller, and Maria I. Marshall. forthcoming.

2022 is the 15th anniversary of the AAEA Graduate Student Extension Competition (GSEC). The GSEC provides an opportunity for applied economics M.S. and Ph.D. students to develop extension and/or outreach programs based on their graduate work, present their proposal to a group of outreach experts, and gain feedback. It also serves as an opportunity for networking, informal mentorship, and enhancing professional relationships and collaboration. This competition is one way to encourage applied economics graduate students to enter into Extension careers, or at least better inform them about those careers. We evaluate the competition and its outcomes for both student competitors and judges through historical information and survey data. We find that the GSEC enhances the ability of graduate students to translate research to lay audiences and can serve as a key pipeline for future Extension economists and others in outreach roles. This case study can be used to inform similar efforts for career education and mentorship efforts in extension and outreach fields of economics.

9. “Untapping terroir: Experimental evidence of regional variation in hop flavor profiles.” Technical Quarterly, 59(1), 7-16. Coauthors: Rob Sirrine, Alex Adams, Alec Mull, Scott Stuhr, and Trey Malone. link.

Thanks in part to the push for localized supply chains, U.S. hop production is becoming more regionally diverse. Differentiation in geographies implies changes in growing climates and other environmental factors known to alter the flavor profiles of agricultural commodities used in food and drink. We used chemical analyses, blind taste tests, and a choice experiment with craft brewers to identify whether the same hop cultivar (Chinook) grown in different regions of the United States induces a unique sensory profile in hops and beer. The chemical analyses, including a terpene analysis and unknowns analysis, suggest differences in hop sensory profiles. While chemical analyses provide preliminary evidence of hop terroir, the results of the blind taste test were inconclusive. To examine the marketing potential of terroir, we used a choice experiment to examine whether brewers are willing to pay a premium for local hops. We found that, holding all else constant, brewers in our sample were willing to pay up to 35% more for local hops—a premium that could be driven by a preference to support the local economy, a belief that the consumer is willing to pay a premium for beers using local hops, and a perception that local hops have a local terroir.​

8. “What you see is what you get, and what you don’t goes unsold: Choice overload and purchasing heuristics in a horticulture lab experiment.” Agribusiness: An International Journal. Coauthors: Bridget Behe, Patricia Huddleston, and Trey Malone. link.

Though choice overload has been extensively studied in packaged products, fewer studies have explored these phenomena in minimally packaged agribusiness products such as potted plants. This matters as these products are heterogeneous not only across product categories but also within the same plant genus, changing the baseline cognitive load for consumer decision-making. This study uses eye-tracking technology to explore how increases in the number of options presented in potted plant retail displays affects visual attention and consumer choice by expanding cognitive load. In a within-subjects design, participants completed six choice tasks, indicating their likelihood to buy their most preferred alternative. As display size increased, participants ignored a larger percentage of the display, engaged in common choice patterns, and spent a lower percentage of their gaze sequence fixated on their selected alternative.

7. “Display Complexity Affects Visual Processing of Horticultural Plant Retail Displays. J. Environmental Horticulture.” Forthcoming in Journal of Environmental Horticulture. Coauthors: Bridget Behe, Patricia Huddleston, and Trey Malone.

Attractive displays can stimulate sales in the retail setting. With most plants still sold in physical retail outlets, the influence of display layout on visual behavior and purchasing is of interest to academicians and practitioners. Using a within-subjects in-lab experiment and eye tracking technology, we explored how the cognitive load imposed by horticultural retail displays affects visual attention and choice. Display layouts were varied for six choice tasks in which participants indicated their most preferred alternative and their likelihood-to-purchase that alternative. Our study suggests that as the number of plant genera increases, perceived display complexity increases, and participants ignore a larger percentage of the products in the display while spending a lower percentage of their gaze sequence fixated on their choice product. Implications for retailers include increasing horizontal merchandising, reducing vertical merchandising, and diversifying the product mix in the display.

6. “Regulatory Landscape of the U.S. Aquaculture Supply Chain.” Choices. Coauthors: Eric Abaidoo, Lauren N. Jescovitch, Dustin Chambers, Richard T. Melstrom, and Trey Malone. link.

While food regulations are often written to encourage ethical business practices; protect consumers, workers, and the environment; and promote animal welfare, they may hinder industry growth, prevent innovation, and generate higher consumer prices. address the relative changes in the aquaculture supply chain regulatory constraints over the past half-century. We use RegData and State RegData to examine regulatory restrictions across the U.S. aquaculture supply chain from 1970 to 2019. Upon presentation of recent trends, we discuss large-scale food policy initiatives and environmental regulations that may be driving the increase in aquaculture regulatory restrictions in recent years. In addition, we analyze heterogeneity across state protein supply chains using 2020 state-level RegData before concluding with a discussion of recent legislation pertaining to the future of the aquaculture industry.

5. “Regulatory Restrictions across U.S. protein supply chains.” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 1-27. Coauthors: Dustin Chambers, Richard (Max) T. Melstrom, and Trey Malone. link.

Food regulations protect consumer health, mitigate environmental concerns, and promote animal welfare, but they can also hinder innovation, limit entrepreneurship, and generate higher consumer prices. This paper combines estimates of regulatory restrictions from Mercatus Center’s RegData and State RegData databases with input-output modeling to assess restrictive regulatory language across various animal protein supply chains regulations across the supply chain. Our results suggest that protein supply chains have become subject to tens of thousands of federal regulatory constraints and that there is substantial heterogeneity in the number of state restrictions associated with animal production. Further research that examines changes in industry practices, market prices, or consumer preference after significant policy changes is needed to assess the economic consequences, or regulatory burden, of these regulatory restrictions across industries.

4. “How many regulations does it take to get a beer? The geography of beer regulations. Regulation & Governance. (2021). Coauthors: Dustin Chambers and Trey Malone. link.

While the influence of regulations on economic outcomes has been well-documented, fewer studies have focused on the economic geography of regulatory burdens. The regulations confronting any supply chain can vary dramatically across legislative jurisdictions, as U.S. policy is enforced by overlapping federal, state, and local governments. We use a unique dataset to explore state-by-state regulatory variation in U.S. beer supply chains in 2020. We find that the state-level rules targeted at the beer supply chain vary between 1,177 and 25,399, with the average state implementing 10,212 formal regulatory restrictions.

3. “Hopping on the localness craze: What brewers want from state-grown hops.” Managerial and Decision Economics, 42(2), 463-473 (2021). Coauthors: Trey Malone and Rob Sirrine. link.

Consumers habitually support local food and drink, but locally grown products often come from less developed value chains with lower quality control standards; something suppliers must consider. We use survey results from 50 Michigan craft breweries to determine what drives the decision to purchase local hops. A generalized linear model using a quasi-maximum likelihood estimator is employed to determine how perceived consistency, attitudes towards localness, and other factors impact hop purchasing decisions. The model indicates consistency of inputs is the leading driver of purchasing locally grown products, and beliefs about localness stimulating the economy or helping the environment is not enough to drive local purchasing.

2. “Consumer willingness to pay for sustainability attributes in beer: A choice experiment using eco-labels.” Agribusiness: An International Journal, 36(4), 591-612 (2020). Coauthors: Carson J. Reeling, Nicole J. Olynk Widmar, and Jayson L. Lusk. link.

Commercial and regional brewers are increasingly investing in sustainability equipment that reduces input use, operating costs, and environmental impacts. These technologies often require prohibitively high upfront costs for microbreweries. One potential solution for these brewers is to market their product as sustainable and charge a premium to offset some of the costs. We undertake a stated preference choice experiment targeting a nationally representative sample of beer buyers and elicit preferences for multiple attributes related to sustainability in beer. We find that, on average, beer buyers are willing to pay $0.70/six-pack for beer produced using water and wastewater reduction technologies, $0.85 for carbon reduction practices, and $0.98 for landfill diversion practices, though water sustainability practices appeal to a largest share of beer buyers. We also find that preferences for sustainability attributes are widely distributed among beer drinkers, largely irrespective of sociodemographic characteristics. The positive price premiums across sustainability attributes suggest beer buyers value sustainable brewing, and brewers could attract new consumers by simultaneously communicating their commitment to sustainability and differentiating their product.

1. “A mixed methods approach to uncover common error patterns in student reasoning of supply and demand.” Journal of Economic Education, 51(3-4), 271-286 (2020). Coauthors: Supriya Sarnikar, Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Stephanie Brewer, and Jason Forgue. link.

Students of introductory economics are often able to predict changes in equilibrium price correctly on standardized assessments, but make consistent errors in predicting changes in equilibrium quantity. To examine the reasons for this pattern, we collected open-ended explanations written by students and categorized their reasoning using a rigorous multi-step qualitative method. Integrating the qualitative analysis with quantitative data, we find that students exhibit remarkable consistency in their reasoning errors. Common multiple choice assessments tend to reward some types of reasoning errors and thereby make it harder for students to acquire the correct reasoning method. We demonstrate that, with thoughtful consideration to avoid excessive subjectivity, a qualitative study can deepen our contextual understanding of the primarily quantitative assessment metrics utilized in economics education research.

In Review

“CBD and THC — Who buys it, and why?” Coauthors: Brandon R. McFadden and Trey Malone.

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, industrialized hemp production, distribution, and commerce became federally legal in the United States. While marijuana remains federally illegal, 16 U.S. jurisdictions have legalized recreational marijuana and 36 have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. The market for cannabis products, from both hemp and marijuana alike, is expanding, yet little is known about the attitudes, perceptions, and preferences of consumers.  We survey 981 U.S. households to better understand the market demand for cannabis-derived products, finding similarities between cannabis users and non-users on several aspects of cannabis knowledge and perceptions. But there are also pervasive differences between the two groups with respect to demographic characteristics and regulatory preferences. While this study provides initial market insight on consumer perceptions, attitudes, and regulatory preferences for cannabis products, future research is needed on an array of topics to fully comprehend the extent of the market.

“The Paycheck Protection Program and small business performance: Evidence from craft breweries.” Coauthor: Thomas P. Krumel.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided approximately $790 billion in relief funds to nearly 12 million small businesses experiencing economic damages from the COVID-19 pandemic. We use data from the craft beer industry to explore the role of PPP funding on small business performance. The craft beer industry makes for an ideal case study because it is comprised of thousands of small, independently-owned producers that rely tremendously on on-premise sales. By merging an industry dataset of producers with data from the Small Business Administration on PPP loan recipients, we examine the relationship between PPP funding and remaining in operation and assess the role of such funding on year-over-year production volume changes. Results suggest that firms that received a PPP loan were more likely to be in operation as of July 2021 and were more likely to experience a smaller decline in annual production than firms that did not receive funding. Further, through the development of a quasi-experiment that exploits a natural break in the loan program, we demonstrate that the average decrease in YoY production was the smallest for breweries that received the earliest PPP funding, suggesting the timing of loan approval played a role in performance outcomes. These results provide preliminary evidence that the PPP achieved its desired objective, but questions remain about its distribution and causal effects.



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