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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

The Effect of Tourism on Child Health Outcomes in Roatán, Honduras

By Hemal Pragneshbhai Patel

Increased tourism, especially in developing economies, brings with it more economic opportunities and avenues for development. In Roatán, the largest of Honduras’ Caribbean Bay Islands, tourism has brought economic development that the island had never before experienced. However, the impact of this economic development brought by increasing cruise ship tourism on child health has yet to be investigated. The increase in economic development is expected to improve child health through improved absorbed nutrition, and this paper uses an OLS regression model to examine how differential exposure to tourism development during a child’s crucial early life developmental window impacts later life health outcomes, proxied by height-for-age Z-scores.

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Advisors: Professor Dennis Clements, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: I1; I15; Z32

Do Evictions Cause Income Changes? An Instrumental Variables Approach

By Grace Mok

Evictions are an important aspect of the affordable housing crisis facing low-income American renters. However, there has been little research quantifying the causal impact of evictions, which poses challenges for academics interested in understanding inequality and policy-makers interested in reducing it. Merging two datasets both new to the literature, I address this gap in the causal literature by using an instrumental variables strategy to examine the impact of evictions on household income over time in Durham, North Carolina. Exploiting gentrification-related evictions as an instrument, I find a 2.5% decrease in household income after eviction. This is a small, but significant decrease in income given that median household income for households at time of eviction is about $15,000.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: I32, R29

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

Cashing Out the Benefits: The Spillover Impact of Cash Transfers on Household Educational Investment

By Mitchell Garrett Ochse and Matheus Dias

Using electricity price, generation, installed capacity, and carbon price data from the European Union from January 2015 to December 2018, this study finds that the carbon pricing in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) incentivizes electricity sector carbon emission reductions through renewable energy deployment only for economically advanced EU members. Transitional economies show a weak to modest carbon emission increase despite a common carbon price. This study estimates an electricity supply curve, or merit order, for 24 EU ETS members using a Tobit regression model and analyzes changes in this curve using a linear bspline. These shifts provide insight into how carbon pricing affected energy generation, price, and CO2 emissions for two distinct categories of EU member states. The advanced category as a whole saw a strong electricity sector decrease in carbon emissions, both over time and from carbon pricing, while the transitional category as a whole saw a weak increase. This indicates that advanced EU members in Northern, Western, and Central Europe likely sold permits to transitional ones in Southern and Eastern Europe. While these findings may initially reflect the gains from trade of carbon emissions, permits inherent in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme’s design, the implications of how these two distinct groups have changed electricity generation present challenges to the ultimate long-term goal of EU-wide carbon neutrality by 2050, particularly in transitional economies’ electricity sectors.

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Advisors: Professor Xiao Yu Wang, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C93; I21; I24

The Impact of Collegiate Athletic Success and Scandals on Admissions Applications

By William J. Battle-McDonald

This paper examines how the quantity and quality of admissions applications to Division 1 colleges and universities were affected by two non-academic factors: (1) performance of a school’s men’s basketball and football teams; and (2) scandals associated with these athletic programs. Admissions data from 2001 – 2017 were compared to team performance during their football and basketball seasons in order to understand how these non-academic factors contribute to an individual’s decisions to apply for admission. A multivariate linear regression model with school and year fixed effects supported the hypothesis that athletic success positively affects the quantity of applications, increasing them by up to 3% in basketball and 11% in football in the following application period. Seasonal football success was also shown to have negative impacts on the distribution of standardized testing scores of future applicant classes, however these scores were shown to increase when a team played their best season in five or more years. Additional analysis of the effects of athletic program scandals reveals a significant negative effect on the number of applications received, although a deep dive into a few of the most prominent scandals suggests that the benefits associated with violating NCAA rules may, under the right circumstances, be well worth the risk.

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Advisor: Dr. James Roberts | JEL Codes: I23, J24, L82, L83, Z2

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

Assessing the Impacts of an Aging Population on Rising Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Expenditures within the United States

By Rahul Sharma 

This paper studies the impact of aging on rising healthcare and pharmaceutical expenditures in the United States with the goal of contextualizing the future burden of public health insurance on the government. Precedent literature has focused on international panels of multiple countries and hasn’t identified significant correlation between age and healthcare expenditures. This paper presents a novel approach of identifying this correlation by using a US sample population to determine if age impacts an individual’s consumption of healthcare services and goods. Results suggest that age has a significant impact on healthcare and pharmaceutical expenditures across private and public insurance.

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Advisors: Gilliam D. Saunders-Schmidler and Grace Kim | JEL Codes: H51, H53, I12, I13, I18, I38

Analyzing Student and Family-Level Effects on a Family’s Contributions to Fund a College Education

By Justin T. Rosenblum and John H. Zipf

We investigate the efficiency of the current financial aid system for prospective college students. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form reviews a family’s financial information and universities review a student’s academic prowess, but neither fully examines students and their family’s qualitative factors such as parents’ highest education level or intended major. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, we investigate academic, financial, and familial characteristics to determine if they impact a student’s level of private loans relative to their total cost of attendance. We find that students with parents who did not receive a college degree are adversely affected by the current financial aid system. In particular, these students take out a greater amount of private loans relative to their total cost of attendance all else equal. Our finding has wider policy implications; changing the current financial aid system to assist disadvantaged students could help reduce intergenerational education inequalities. In addition, colleges could reach a broader range of students by helping
the students that currently struggle the most to pay tuition.

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Advisors: Michelle Connolly, Hugh Macartney and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: I2, I22, I23

Benefit Spillovers and Higher Education Financing: An Empirical Analysis of Brain Drain and State-Level Investment in Public Universities

By Chinmany G. Pandit

This paper analyzes the impact of out-migration of college graduates on state higher education investment. A three-stage least squares regression model with state and year fixed effects is developed and estimated, addressing the relationship between state legislative appropriations, tuition, and educated out-migration across 49 U.S. states from 2006-2015. The results support the notion that states respond negatively to benefit spillovers in higher education: for every one percent increase in the rate of educated out-migration, state appropriations decrease by 1.92 percent (roughly $140 per student). These findings suggest that an education subsidy
provided to states may be necessary to prevent underinvestment in higher education.

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Advisor: Thomas Nechyba | JEL Codes: H7, H75, I22, I28, R23


Undergraduate Program Assistant
Jennifer Becker

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly