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The Impact of Agglomeration Externalities on Product Innovation Output in Chinese Industrial Firms

By Cindy Feng  

Agglomeration externalities is defined as the economic benefits from concentrating firms, housing, and output. This study investigates the impact of agglomeration externalities of industrial firms on product innovation output in China. In the research, I specified the impact of agglomeration into three types: Marshallian or localization externalities, defined as the impact of collocating with same-industry firms; Urbanization economies, defined as the impact of collocating with different-industry firms, and Porter externalities, the impact of competing with same-industry firms as a result of localization. My result suggests endogenous spatial selection of firms account for most of the agglomeration impacts we observe. Despite so, urbanization economies is still impactful in boosting a firm’s innovation performance, and should be taken into account as the government implements policies that boost firm performance.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker, Professor Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: R3, D24, R50

The Impact of Medicare Nonpayment: A Quasi-Experimental Approach

By Audrey Kornkven   

In October 2008, a provision of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 known as Medicare “Nonpayment” went into effect, eliminating reimbursement for the marginal costs of  preventable hospital-acquired conditions in an effort to correct perverse incentives in hospitals and improve patient safety. This paper contributes to the existing debate surrounding Nonpayment’s efficacy by considering varying degrees of fiscal pressure among hospitals; potential impacts on healthcare utilization; and differences between Medicare and non-Medicare patient populations. It combines data on millions of hospital discharges in New York from 2006-2010 with hospital-, hospital referral region-, and county-level data to isolate the policy’s impact. Analysis exploits the quasi-experimental nature of Nonpayment via difference-in-differences with Mahalanobis matching and fuzzy regression discontinuity designs. In line with results from Lee et al. (2012), Schuller et al. (2013), and Vaz et al. (2015), this paper does not find evidence that Nonpayment reduced the likelihood that Medicare patients would develop a hospital-acquired condition, and concludes that the policy is not likely the success claimed by policymakers. Results also suggest that providers may select against unprofitable Medicare patients when possible, and are likely to vary in their responses to financial incentives. Specifically, private non-profit hospitals appear to have been most responsive to the policy. These findings have important implications for pay-for-performance initiatives in American healthcare.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker, Professor Frank Sloan, Professor Grace Kim| JEL Codes: I1, I13, I18

Female Labor Force Participation in Turkic Countries: A Study of Azerbaijan and Turkey

By Natasha Jo Torrens

Encouraging female labor force participation (FLFP) should be a goal of any country attempting to increase their productive capacity. Understanding the determinants and motivations of labor force participation requires isolating the factors that influence a woman’s decision to enter or leave formal employment. In this thesis, I utilize data from the Demographics and Health Surveys to explain the role of social conservatism in promoting or limiting participation in the labor force. I focus on ever-married women in Azerbaijan and Turkey to provide a lens through which to explain the unexpectedly low FLFP of Turkey. Though most prior research attempts to explain Turkey’s low FLFP rate by comparisons to other OECD countries, my study looks at Turkey through the context of other Turkic cultures to explore cultural factors driving labor force participation for ever-married women. This study finds a negative correlation between conservatism and the likelihood of participating in the labor force for ever married women in Azerbaijan, and a larger, positive relationship in Turkey.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker, Professor Didem Havlioğlu, Professor Kent Kimrbough | JEL Codes: C50, J16, N95

The Effect of Early Life Economic Conditions on Child Health in Post-Soviet Russia

By Hemal Pragneshbhai Patel

The effect of the economic collapse on health has been extensively documented in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The proportion of stunted children in Russia increased substantially in this period, but no study has investigated the mechanisms by which this economic collapse impacted child health outcomes. This paper uses an OLS regression followed by a Binder-Oaxaca decomposition to determine the specific economic factors that significantly contributed to this decrease in child heights.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker | JEL Codes: I1; I14; J13

Evidence of Stalinist Terror in Modern Adult Height Data

By David Blauser Henderson

Adult height is often used to evaluate standards of living experienced in childhood, as it is highly dependent on early-life nutrition (Komlos and Baten, 1998). I employ adult height data collected by the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS) to measure well-being among the population of the USSR during two periods of Stalinist repression: The Great Terror from 1937- 1938, and dekulakization, which led directly to the Great Famine of 1932-1933. Heights are normalized by gender and birth year using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. I find that both the Great Terror and Great Famine had significant negative impacts on health. In particular, I find the impact of famine on adult height was greatest for those of low socioeconomic status and those born in rural areas. The Great Terror, however, primarily impacted the health of those of high socioeconomic status, those born in urban areas, and those born in areas that were heavily targeted by repression campaigns.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: N5, N54, I15

The Impact of Violence in Mexico on Education and Labor Outcomes: Do Conditional Cash Transfers Have a Mitigating Effect?

By Hayley Jordan Barton

This research explores the potential mitigating effect of Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program, Oportunidades, on the education and labor impacts of increased homicide rates. Panel data models are combined with a difference-in-differences approach to compare children and young adults who receive cash transfers with those who do not. Results are very sensitive to specification, but Oportunidades participation is shown to be positively associated with educational attainment regardless of homicide increases. Homicides are associated with decreases in likelihood of school enrollment and compulsory education completion; however, they also correspond with increases in educational attainment, with a larger effect for Oportunidades non-recipients.

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Advisors: Dr. Charles Becker, and Dr. Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C23; D15; I20; I38; J24

Entrepreneurial Attractiveness: Amazon, Google, and the Search for Innovative Hot Spots

By Anna Katherine Kropf

Recent economic literature suggests that entrepreneurship in technological fields can spur economic growth, making it a popular topic for city development officials. Yet, this increasingly popular phenomenon is met by many economic questions. One of those questions is which characteristics of metropolitan areas are attractive to entrepreneurs. To answer the question of attractiveness on both the small business and corporate levels, I compare across two case studies: Amazon’s search for a second headquarters and Google’s tech hub network. Using principal component analysis, I statistically deduce seven components of attractiveness from an original 34 variables. These components are then weighted using three methods—a case study, a survey, and an empirical method—to produce comparable indices of attractiveness. Generally, I find that sizeable population and healthy economy are the strongest components. However, the statistically insignificant components that can change an urban area’s ranking considerably are talent and geographic network effects. Ultimately, creating policy to maximize these aspects can change a city’s innovative
trajectory.

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Advisor: Dr. Charles Becker | JEL Codes: O, O3, R, R1, R11

Japan’s Furusato Nouzei (Hometown Tax): Which Areas Get How Much, and Is It Really Working?

By Kay Hasegawa

In 2015, 7,260,093 individuals donated a total of ¥165,291,021,000 (approximately 1.5 billion USD total) to 1,741 municipalities in Japan using the furusato nouzei system (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). In this paper, I examine this system in two ways. Firstly, I predict the amount of donations each municipality receives based on a number of explanatory variables. Secondly, I run a 2SLS difference-in-differences regression to see if the tax was successfully redistributing wealth from city centers to rural areas, using an increase in municipal-level expenditure as a proxy.

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Advisor: Charles Becker JEL Codes: H2, H21, H27

The Neighborhood Effect on Health Outcomes for Women in Urban India

By Priyanka Venkannagari

The paper uses 2011 Indian Human Development Survey data to assess the impact of 5 categories of variables on health outcomes. It uses OLS models, interaction terms, instrumental variable models, fixed effects and random effects to investigate the existence of a neighborhood effect on health outcomes for women in urban India. This paper finds that various aspects of health practices, empowerment, amenities and financial security are relevant when looking at health outcomes. Interventions looking to address health outcomes should consider these variables and the compounding neighborhood effect.

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Advisor: Charles Becker | JEL Codes: C36, I1, I12, O18

Hedonic Modeling of Singapore’s Resale Public Housing Market

By Jiakun Xu

The large-scale, high-density public housing market in Singapore invites hedonic analysis, due to its homogeneity in structure quality across all neighborhoods. This paper builds a time-dummy hedonic regression model incorporating geospatial features for a large dataset of resale transactions from 2000 to 2016. Significant anticipatory price effects are found for new subway stations, which peak at two years before station opening. A hedonic price index suggests that affordability was a problem during the sustained period of property price inflation from 2011 to 2013. District-level analysis shows evidence of increasing rent gradients, wealth disparities, and “lottery” effects in asset growth. I discuss the potential contributions of these insights to wealth and equity considerations in public policy
design.

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Data available upon request. Email dus_asst@econ.duke.edu

Advisor: Charles Becker | JEL Codes: C21, R3, R31, R38, R41

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