The University of New Mexico’s Department of Economics recently hosted its first-ever New Mexico Economics Research Day highlighted by the presentation of four policy projects related to the well-being of the New Mexico state economy.

The conference was made possible in part through the support of the New Mexico Legislature which allocated $125,000 last spring as part of the 2022 SB 377, Junior Appropriations bill, to conduct New Mexico-centric economics research. From the appropriation, the Economics Department funded four policy projects which were presented as part of the research day.  

“This New Mexico Economics Research Day is our attempt to more broadly distribute this research across campus and to New Mexico policymakers,” said Research Committee Chair and Professor Brady Horn, who coordinated the conference for the economics department.

The four policy projects designed to enable New Mexico-centric economics research from the appropriation received from the New Mexico State Legislature include:

New Mexico Prekindergarten and its Short-Term Effects on County-Level Female Employment and Child Maltreatment
Associate Professor Kira Villa is leading this research effort which is part of a larger project evaluating the association between New Mexico’s early childhood programs and county-level economic, educational, and child well-being. Villa, and her team including Ph.D. candidates Abhradeep Karmakar and Kritika Sen, are examining the near-term association between state prekindergarten support and county-level rates of female labor market participation and maltreatment. Their findings suggest that New Mexico prekindergarten has positive spillover effects on other aspects of well-being.  

Ozone Pollution in New Mexico: An Economic Analysis of its Human Health Impacts and Damages
Assistant Professor Andrew Goodkind and Associate Professor Benjamin A. Jones, along with Ph.D. candidate Suraj Ghimire are highlighting in their research how ozone is a significant contributor to air pollution problems in New Mexico. In their white paper, the researchers are undertaking a comprehensive three-phase study of ozone pollution in New Mexico including a multi-sector analysis of ozone precursors to identify locations of emissions sources and trends over time; investigating ozone concentrations directly to study the spatial and temporal trends of ozone in New Mexico, and estimate the human-health impacts and associated dollar-denominated damages of ozone pollution by applying peer-reviewed and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methods and economic cost metrics.

Effects of Cannabis Home Cultivation on Residential Water Use in New Mexico
Associate Professor Sarah Stith along with Professor Janie Chermak studied the effects of the legalization of home cannabis cultivation and water use using data from the Santa Fe Water Division of the Santa Fe Public Utilities Department and from a small, fielded survey on home cultivation experience and preferences. Data results indicate an average monthly increase in water use of 36 gallons per household or 1.27 million gallons overall following the legalization of home cultivation. Key takeaways included a preference for indoor growing, use of public utility water, and that home-cultivated cannabis can readily compete with dispensary-sourced cannabis on quality and cost. A policy recommendation includes educating growers on low-water growing methods.

The Economic Consequences of Liquor Laws and Regulations in New Mexico
Senior Lecturer David Dixon and Professor Brady Horn studied the regulation of alcohol in New Mexico to provide a historical context for alcohol regulation in the U.S. and discuss the effect that different types of alcohol policies have had. In their research, they describe how market-based mechanisms can be used to impact alcohol consumption and provide the economic theory behind alcohol quotas and taxation. They also collected empirical data to study the impact that recent alcohol excise taxes rate changes have had on the New Mexico craft beer industry. Among their findings were considerable growth over the last 10 years in the N.M. brewing industry; a higher yearly growth rate in brewery production and a reduction in the importation of out-of-state beer after changes in excise taxes; and a $165 million impact on the New Mexico economy in 2019.

The importance of New Mexico-centric Economics Research was highlighted in a handout at the conference which demonstrated the reach of UNM-based Economics research over the past 10 years. More than 89 different N.M.-centric entries were compiled involving 21 different current and former Economics faculty. The research is generally highly collaborative and regularly involves UNM graduate students as co-authors.

“The objective of this research is to produce independent economic investigations on current and important issues related to the New Mexico economy, with the overall goal of improving the lives of New Mexicans,” said Horn. “Also, an exciting part of this project as it continues, is that we will be able to generate the data and expertise to be able to study future economic questions as they arise in New Mexico.  

UNM Economics faculty regularly publish economics research on issues using data where the focus can be international, national, or regional. The research can be found in a variety of outlets and can typically be reviewed on faculty web pages.

“Part of the department’s mission is to serve our community and we have a long history of focusing on NM-centric research.  From energy to water, to fire, to addictions, to wellbeing, the department has tackled numerous problems faced by the state,” said Economics chair and professor Janie Chermak. “The financial support from the Legislature has allowed us to not only continue this work but to broaden the focus. Our goal is to provide world-class analysis to provide policymakers with improved information with which to develop future policies for our state.”