A recent study showed that fracking activity tended to result in disproportionate jumps in nearby high school dropout rates.
According to the analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research, between 2000 and 2013, every 0.1 percentage point increase in the local energy industry's fracking-related employment rate corresponded to a roughly 0.3 percentage point increase in the dropout rate among male teens.
Bloomberg reported that high-paying jobs in the fracking industry likely encouraged more teens to forego graduating high school — and warned that the pattern could cause problems in the future.
Study authors Elizabeth Cascio and Ayushi Narayan wrote that fracking's increasing demand for relatively low-skill workers in oil and gas fields could hurt educational achievement at a time when broader economic trends tend to favor highly educated or highly trained workers.
The authors also wrote that fracking could distort local students' expectations for earnings at their levels of educational attainment.
Moreover, the study indicated that higher wage levels for male teens in fracking-intensive areas were already on the decline — a pattern that preceded the global collapse in oil prices that triggered massive production cuts and layoffs in the U.S. fracking industry.
The industry's impact on the labor force could further complicate the debate over fracking, which dramatically increased U.S. energy production and improved many rural economies but drew scorn from environmental advocates.