Pedram Malakian, "Impact of Generational Experiences on Anti-Immigration Sentiments."
Phil Panici, "Is the Use of Fossil Fuels for Electricity Generation Declining with Renewable Popularity?"
Aidan Loh, "Examining the Effectiveness of Chinese Monetary Policy." Advised by Funda Dogruer.
Sarah Kaplan, "A Cross County Examination of Fiscal Federalism in the 2016 Election." Advised by Eshragh Motahar.
Talitha Kumaresan, "The Business Cycle and U.S. Health Outcomes." Advised by Jeeten Giri.
Dhruv Patel, "Radiographic and Health Economic Analysis of Acetabular Retractors Placement Relative to Neurovascular Structure in Various Total Hip Arthroplasty Surgical Approaches." Advised by Stephen Schmidt.
Authors: Dong Cheng & Alyssa Trebino, Class of 2020
Abstract: We investigate the contribution of automobile adoption to state-level real income in the United States using hand-collected historical data of the early twentieth century when the adoption was remarkably rapid. To achieve identification, we construct a Bartik-type instrumental variable for automobile adoption. We find an elasticity of income with respect to automobile adoption between 0.5 and 1. Furthermore, we reveal that the elasticity is significantly larger in high-income and automobile producing states.
Abstract: With the recognition by the IMF of the Chinese renminbi as an international reserve currency in 2015, it is important to understand the modern influence of reserve currencies. We use currency exchange rate data and apply modified workhorse regression models to assign each country’s gross domestic product at purchasing power parity to a reserve currency bloc in order to obtain a global sphere of influence for each reserve currency. We find that the United States retains its dominance but faces challenges from the renminbi and the euro in recent years as the international monetary system becomes tri-polar.
Abstract: Are federal prosecutors influenced by partisan political concerns? We examine that question by analyzing 40 years of federal corruption convictions at the state and federal district levels. Our key finding is that state-level federal corruption convictions fall by roughly 9% in years when a state’s governor belongs to the same party as the president who appointed local US Attorneys, a measure of state-federal political alignment. The result is robust to controls for the state political environment, election cycles, party tenure in the executive branch, public sector employment, federal aid to states, a state’s electoral importance, and the changes in Honest Services law, the statutory basis for many federal corruption cases. Our results are consistent with a significant level of partisan prosecutorial bias on the part of US Attorneys. In a placebo test, we find no evidence that state-federal political alignment affects the total number of federal criminal convictions. That finding provides support for the mechanism that we propose, namely the partisan exercise of prosecutorial discretion, rather than the partisan allocation of prosecutorial resources across federal districts.
Abstract: Languages differ in the degree to which they employ gender distinctions for nouns and pronouns. Speaking a gendered language may highlight gender roles. We find that speaking a gendered language is associated with a greater gender gap in educational attainment.
Abstract: We exploit changes in the residential and social environment on campus to identify the economic and academic consequences of fraternity membership at a small North-eastern college. Our estimates suggest that these consequences are large, with fraternity membership lowering student grade point average by approximately 0.25 points on the traditional 4-point scale, but raising future income by approximately 36%, for those students whose decision about membership is affected by changes in the environment. These results suggest that fraternity membership causally produces large gains in social capital, which more than outweigh its negative effects on human capital for potential members. Alcohol-related behavior does not explain much of the effects of fraternity membership on either the human capital or social capital effects. These findings suggest that college administrators face significant trade-offs when crafting policies related to Greek life on campus.
Abstract: Studying abroad may allow students to form human capital in ways not possible at home and may enable them to earn higher incomes. On the other hand, study abroad has been criticized as insufficiently rigorous. Little is known about how study abroad affects skills and earnings in the long term. Using a data set of 3,155 students over a range of 43 years from a single college, we investigated the effects of study abroad and found it has no net effect on earnings compared with study at home. The advantages and disadvantages of study abroad are approximately balanced; human capital formed by study abroad is not more or less than that formed in residence. Colleges need not emphasize study abroad more than study on campus, but they also need not worry that study abroad is unproductive. Study abroad and study at home appear equally effective at forming human capital.
Authors: Lewis Davis, Farangis Abdurazokzoda, Class of 2015
Abstract: Kashima and Kashima's (1998) linguistic dataset has played a prominent role in the economics of culture, providing the instrumental variables used in two seminal works to identify the causal effect of culture on institutional quality. However, for economists, this dataset has a number of weaknesses, including poor overlap with a key cultural dataset and reliance on sources of linguistic information of uneven quality. We address these issues by constructing a new linguistic dataset based on an authoritative source of linguistic information, the World Atlas of Language Structures. The resulting dataset has greater overlap with key sources of cultural information, is arguably less subject to selection bias, and provides more refined information regarding key dimensions of linguistic variation. We show that the variables in this dataset are significantly correlated with commonly used measures of individualism and egalitarianism. In addition, we reexamine the key results from the literature on culture and institutions, showing the causal relationship between culture and institutions is robust to the use of the new linguistic instruments.
Abstract: This study analyzes the relationship between students’ online work habits and academic performance. We utilize data from logs recorded by a course management system (CMS) in two courses at a small liberal arts college in the U.S. Both courses required the completion of a large number of online assignments. We measure three aspects of students’ online work habits: timeliness, regularity, and intensity. We find that students with high prior GPAs and high grades in the course work on assignments early and more regularly. We also find that the regularity of work habits during the first half of the term predicts grade in the course, even while controlling for the prior GPA. Overall, however, the marginal predictive power of CMS data is rather limited. Still, the fact that high achieving students show vastly different work habits from low achieving students supports interventions aimed at improving time-management skills.
Abstract: The authors find that mutual fund companies offer mostly their own mutual funds in the 401(k) plans for their own employees. However, there are systematic differences between companies that rely on their own funds and companies that include outside funds. The companies that include outside funds tend to operate funds with high expense ratios. Outside funds in the 401(k) plans of mutual fund companies have significantly lower expense ratios and better governance scores than company’s own funds. This evidence supports the claim that the interests of mutual fund companies are not perfectly aligned with the interests of their funds’ shareholders. The authors also find that among the company’s own funds, the funds selected for the company’s 401(k) plan are almost indistinguishable from the rest of the funds offered by the mutual fund companies. Thus, it is not the case that, within their own funds, mutual fund companies favor their inexpensive funds. In fact, within the companies’ own funds, participants (mutual fund company employees) gravitate towards higher-cost and more actively managed funds. Thus, in one context (choosing to use outside funds) mutual fund companies favor cheap and better governed funds, in another context (choosing among its own funds) mutual fund companies favor actively managed, expensive funds.
Abstract: In The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman argues that growth reduces the strength of interpersonal income comparisons, and thereby tends to increases the desire for pro-social legislation, a position he supports by drawing on the historical records of the US and several Western European countries. We test this hypothesis using a variable from the World Values Survey that measures an individual's taste for government responsibility, which we interpret as a measure of the demand for egalitarian social policy. Our results provide support for a modified version of Friedman's hypothesis. In particular, we find that the taste for government responsibility is positively related to the recent change in the growth rate and negatively related to the change in income inequality. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for attempts to further the egalitarian social goals.
Abstract: We estimate the impact of increases in Federal student aid and higher education funding, such as the recently proposed American Graduation Initiative (AGI), on the outcomes of community colleges, including enrollments, list and average tuitions, and educational quality. We develop a reduced form model of state-level education policy in which state policy makers, who have objectives that differ from those of Federal policy makers, respond to changes in Federal policies. Our empirical specification treats state and institutional variables as endogenous; we interpret the coefficients as measuring the responses of state and institution officials to changes in Federal policies. We simulate the effects of AGI and find little evidence that states recapture Federal education resources. AGI would have a significant effect on educational quality but a limited effect on enrollments. An equivalent increase in Federal student aid would have greater impact on access and enrollments, but decrease educational quality.
Abstract: The explicit hierarchy of recognition in alumni giving offers a useful context in which to examine the nature of gender differences regarding charitable giving. Using 31 years of alumni-giving records at a small liberal arts college, we find that women are more likely to be donors. Among donors, women tend to give more frequently but generally make smaller donations than men. These results hold even after controlling for age, income, and participation in Greek organizations. The results are consistent with the hypotheses that the drive for recognition of charitable giving is stronger in men than women, and that women are more reciprocal than men.
Authors: Scott Morlando, Class of 2010, Stephen Schmidt, Kathleen LoGuidice
Abstract: Habitat restoration is costly and it is often necessary to justify the costs with evidence of benefits to society. These benefits are difficult to quantify because they are measured in terms of ecosystem services rather than currency. This paper introduces a somewhat novel restoration‐related ecosystem service, a reduction in the risk of tick‐borne disease, and incorporates it into a cost/benefit analysis of the restoration of a rare habitat. We use a cost‐of‐illness study to calculate the costs averted by preventing Lyme disease (LD), and a contingent‐valuation survey to estimate the benefit of biodiversity protection. The restoration, removal of an invasive tree, reduced the risk of LD by approximately 98%. Cost‐of‐illness studies show that the restoration would be financially justifiable if it averted 75 cases of LD per year. Given the local LD rate and the visitation rate to the preserve, the habitat restoration can plausibly be justified solely on the benefit of LD cases averted. However, as we do not know how many cases of LD are contracted in the preserve, we also establish the perceived value of protecting biodiversity in a contingent‐valuation survey. Results show that residents were willing to pay a significant fraction of the net cost of restoration to protect biodiversity. When these benefits are taken into account, the number of cases of disease that must be averted to justify remediation is reduced. This exercise spotlights an underappreciated ecosystem service that, when appropriate, can help establish the cost effectiveness of restoration.
Abstract: We extend the empirical literature on the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) by showing the legal origin matters for the evolution of environmental quality. Using observations of ambient sulfur dioxide levels, we find that the EKC for French and British legal origin countries diverge as incomes rise, with the EKC for French legal origin countries lying significantly below that for countries of British legal origin. This finding is robust to the inclusion of proxies for democracy and corruption, the institutional variables emphasized in the current EKC literature. Our results are consistent with the idea that the British common law tradition places a greater emphasis on private relative to collective property rights.
Abstract: We design and administer a financial literacy test tailored to a specific defined contribution plan. We find that participants show fairly good knowledge of the basic mechanics of the plan, but are unable to differentiate among various investment options. Knowledge is particularly low among women, low income and low education employees. We also find some evidence that personal contributions lead to more knowledge. These results support plan designs that have few investment options and encourage personal contributions.
Abstract: In 1997, Vermont passed Act 60, which reformed its education finance system to achieve greater equality of spending. The reform encouraged wealthy towns to reduce spending; it was politically unpopular and was replaced, in 2004, by Act 68. We analyze the spending incentives created by the two acts and estimate the effects the change will have on spending inequality. Act 68 reduces tax prices for education spending in all towns, but reduces them disproportionately for wealthy towns. It increases education spending in Vermont but also increases inequality of spending. Because spending is inelastic with respect to tax prices, the increase in inequality is small relative to existing inequality. Our findings demonstrate that understanding the way towns respond to financial incentives, economically and politically, is critical in designing successful reforms. They suggest that it is difficult to maintain finance systems that give wealthy towns strong incentives to spend less or subsidize poorer towns. Using state revenues to subsidize schools achieves nearly as much equality as more explicit attempts to force wealthy districts to share resources.
Abstract: The authors use data envelopment analysis to measure efficiency for US rail firms since deregulation, and assess whether mergers have improved efficiency. They model production in two stages. In the first, firms produce a network of track as an output. In the second, firms use track to produce shipments of goods. Mergers increase technical efficiency in the first stage, but reduce scale efficiency; many merged firms are larger than efficient scale. Firms may merge to acquire market power from ownership of track. In the second stage, mergers have no effect on efficiency; efficiency has improved since deregulation, but not due to mergers.