An LSU AgCenter economist is part of a group that received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study rural communities and regional development.

“In our society, we measure what we value — the number of jobs created, unemployment rate. We want to find more effective ways of measuring wealth, particularly some of these wealth measures that are not traded in the marketplace,” said Matt Fannin, AgCenter economist and associate professor in the LSU College of Agriculture.

The research will include finding methods to price natural wealth such as lakes and rivers, as well as the social and cultural capital of rural places. Those assets add to the value of marketable assets such as residential homes.

“If we can measure their value, then we have a way to understand how to more effectively invest in those assets and look at how they generate returns,” Fannin said.

Fannin leads a team that includes Tom Johnson, of the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, and John Pender, of the USDA Economic Research Service. Their grant was among $14 million the USDA awarded to to support programs aimed at increasing prosperity in rural America.