Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics Cited in Recent Articles About Electricity in Rural America


In a recent May 22 Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond article research by Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics Price Fishback and Carl Kitchens '21 PhD on the Rural Electrification Administration was cited.

The article talks about President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1935 executive order creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), so that electricity could be distributed to rural areas of the U.S.

Because farmland in the U.S. was more sparsely populated and not as close to cities, where power plants were located, distributing electricity to those rural areas would cost utility companies as much as $2,000 per mile—what is now more than $30,000 in 2020.

Private utilities were reluctant to work with the REA arguing that farmers did not have enough demand for electricity to make the service sustainable. The REA’s solution was to turn to the cooperative, also known as co-op. "When you read books from that era, one of the things people always talk about is how rural communities can solve different problems by forming a co-op," says Fishback in the article.

Price Fishback joined the Eller College of Management as associate professor in 1990 after teaching at the University of Georgia. He was appointed the Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics in 2010. He earned his PhD in Economics from the University of Washington in 1983. His research areas of interest are the political economy of Roosevelt’s New Deal during the 1930s, examining both the determinants of New Deal spending and loans and their impact on local economies throughout the U.S. He also works on state labor legislation during the Progressive Era, the American Economy during World War II and changes in agriculture in response to climate, government policy and technology. Fishback is also a research affiliate at the Centre for Economic History at Australian National University, a CAGE Fellow at Warwick University, a program scholar for the Hoover Program on Regulation and the Rule of Law, a fellow at the TIAA-CREF Institute and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.