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Water clarity and property values: Students research connections

Some research topics in fields like economics require years to examine and compile the data needed to make significant conclusions. This is true of an ongoing project led by Thomas Kemp, professor of economics, which seeks to track the impact of lake water quality on the property values of the surrounding homes.

International student Irene Ng, a senior from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, has been part of the water clarity research team, and told us a bit about the nature of the project, and her thoughts about participating in this type of research.

Irene Ng, business economics '17


Irene Ng, business economics major, will graduate in 2017.

This study estimates the property value gains associated with improvements in water clarity on 20 Northern Wisconsin lakes. Using a two stage hedonic model applied to Wisconsin DNR water studies and sales data on over 300 homes obtained from we estimate that a 3 foot improvement in water clarity would produce a 9 - 16% improvement in the market price of an average property on lakes with the lowest clarity. 

On Lake Chetac we estimate a an additional 3 feet of water clarity would bring a 10 – 11% improvement in the value of the average property adjacent to the lake. This translates to an increase market value to $269,400 from $243,477 on the average property and an additional $10.4 million in total property valuation. Given the Sawyer County 2015 property tax rate of 1.085% the increased valuation could bring another $112,800 in annual county property taxes collected.

When it comes to research, time and commitment is a big deal. From here, I have learned to manage time well in order to complete the research. This could benefit  in my studies and also in my future career. Hence, by working on a research, I am able to gain a lot of extra knowledge as research is done on a particular topic or situation which needed to be well explained. I hope and wish to see more students to engage themselves into research projects. It will give a positive and better perception towards employers when they see it on your resume as well.


Dr. Thomas Kemp had the following thoughts about the value of undergraduate collaborative research: 

Faculty/Student research here in the Department of Economics helps keep faculty, students, and the community connected. Our students apply economic concepts to real world policy to make the state a better place. They contribute to the Wisconsin Idea and the idea that the borders of the University are the borders of the state.