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The Future of Economic Geopolitics: Network Effects in Intercultural Trade

By Joshua Curtis

Using a regression discontinuity design on a gravity model of trade among 36 Middle Eastern and East Asian countries between 1980 and 2014, this study demonstrates network effects in trade. A small improvement in trade between subsets of two cultural blocs diminishes the effect of cultural similarity on trade between all members of the two cultural blocs. The result holds regardless of whether cultural similarity was originally a boon or drag on trade. Furthermore, international businesses adjust to new intercultural acumen very rapidly. The effect demonstrated herein points toward an answer to economic dilemmas posed by Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.”

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Advisor: Dr. Lori Leachman, | JEL Codes: F1, F5, B27

Prediction in Economics: a Case Study of Economists’ Views on the 2008 Financial Crisis

By Weiran Zeng

Prediction in economics is the focal point of debate for the future of economics, ever since economists were burdened with the failure to “predict” the 2008 Financial Crisis. This paper discusses positions held by philosophers and economic methodologists regarding what kinds of predictions there are and creates a taxonomy of prediction. Through evaluation of those positions, this paper presents different senses of prediction that can be expected of economics, and assess economists’ reflections according to those senses.

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Advisor: Kevin Hoover | JEL Codes: B41, N1, G17

What Fosters Innovation? A CrossSectional Panel Approach to Assessing the Impact of Cross Border Investment and Globalization on Patenting Across Global Economies

By Michael Dessau and Nicholas Vega

This study considers the impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on innovation in high income, uppermiddle  income and lowermiddle income countries. Innovation matters because it is a critical factor for economic growth. In a panel setting, this study assesses the degree to which FDI functions as a vehicle for innovation as proxied by scaled local resident patent applications. This study considers research and development (R&D), domestic savings, imports and exports, and quality of governance as factors which could also impact the effectiveness of FDI on innovation. Our results suggest FDI is most effective as inward direct investment in countries outside the technological frontier possessing adequate existing domestic investment capital and R&D spending to convert foreign investment capital and technological spillover into innovation. Nonetheless, FDI was not a consistent indicator for innovation; rather, the most consistent indicators across this study were R&D and domestic savings. Differences amongst income groups are highlighted as well as their varying responses to our array of causal factors.

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Advisor: Lori Leachman | JEL Codes: A10, B22, C82, E00, E02, O10, O11, O30, O31, O32, O33, O34, O43

Adam Smith and Sayyid Qutb: A comparison of two different worldviews

By Kehaan Manjee

The West and Militant Islam have been in conflict with each other because of their different worldviews. Adam Smith and Sayyid Qutb have arguably had tremendous influence on these worldviews i.e. capitalism and Islamic state. Both thinkers provided their prescriptions to improve the condition of their societies, and analyzing these prescriptions helps us understand the differences in these worldviews. I have compared and contrasted their socioeconomic theories, using these two thinkers as proxies for the West and Militant Islam. I have specifically analyzed their prescriptions on three issues: economic inequality, taxation and interest.  These key issues provide an insight into the views of the two scholars, and through that, the conflicting worldviews of the West and Militant Islam. On economic inequality, Smith believed that his economic system of natural liberty would lead to universal opulence; in contrast, Qutb argued that only an Islamic system of government could reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Both thinkers supported taxation: Smith wanted to use it to finance the provision of public goods, security and justice; while Qutb not only wanted to use it to finance government services, but also viewed taxation as a tool for redistribution of wealth in the society. Smith and Qutb disagreed on the issue of interest: Smith supported interestbearing lending, but argued for the imposition of a ceiling on interest rates; on the contrary, Qutb wanted an outright prohibition on all forms of interest on creditThese similarities and differences in their prescriptions on various issues provide insight inttheir vision for society. Since their vision and objectives are differentthey have competing worldviews, which explains the conflict between the West and Militant Islam. 

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Advisor: Neil De Marchi | JEL Codes: B10, B12, B15, B31, N00 | Tagged: Adam Smith, Capitalism, Different Worldviews, Islamic State, Sayyid Qutb

Martin Bronfenbrenner: An Economist in the American Occupation of Japan

By Michael Potts

Martin Bronfenbrenner (1914-1997) was one of the last of a generation of generalist economists. His involvement in the U.S. Occupation of Japan changed his life and his career. This paper examines the mutually stabilizing relationship between his persona and his work in light of his experiences in Japan. Access to Bronfenbrenner’s previously restricted and unpublished autobiography archived in the Economists Papers Project at Duke University allows the author to reconstruct, from primary source material, some of the challenges faced by the individual, prewar-trained economist in navigating the postwar transformation of the economics discipline.

Honor’s Thesis

Advisor: E. Roy Weintraub | JEL Codes: B2, B31, N45, N95 | Tagged: U.S. Occupation of Japan, Economic Japanology: Martin Bronfenbrenner

“Winner-­‐Take-­‐All Economics” Professional Inquiry and Public Discourse on Material Inequality

By Jonathan Pryor

What can account for the failure of economists to extend a firm guiding hand into the public discourse on material inequality in contemporary America? This paper reviews historical and modern economic literature and then extends its focus to the debates in the public sector, private opinion, “think tanks,” the news media, the private sector, special interest groups, and popular culture. The intractable social, political and economic complexity of the problem and the influence of competing interests deter attempts at economic interpretation. Economists should respond to the public need by devoting greater attention to descriptive and prescriptive analyses, developed with an appreciation of the competing interests and activities of the various sectors that must accept any response.

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Advisor: Craufurd Goodwin | JEL Codes: A11, A13, B12, B13, B14, B15 | Tagged: Economic Inequality, Income Inequality, Wealth Inequality


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Jennifer Becker

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly