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Category Archives: I24

Bridging the Persistence Gap: An Investigation of the Underrepresentation of Female and Minority Students in STEM Fields

By Aaditya Jain and Bailey Kaston

Prior literature on mismatch theory has concentrated primarily on minority students, whose lower average levels of pre-enrollment preparedness tend to discourage them from persisting in STEM fields as often as their non-minority counterparts at selective universities. Our study shifts the focus to the persistence gap between men and women, invoking social cognitive career theory to investigate how factors beyond preparedness – such as self-confidence – cause women to switch out of selective STEM programs at higher rates than men. Using the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, we investigate the drivers of STEM persistence for all students and arrive at two main conclusions. First, higher levels of STEM preparedness are more beneficial to STEM persistence at selective universities, confirming mismatch theory in the sample. We then simulate the counterfactual scenario and find that 33% of students at selective schools would have been more likely to persist in STEM had they attended less selective schools, a figure that reaches 50% for underconfident female students. This observation ties to our second conclusion – that underconfidence in math relative to one’s true performance decreases the likelihood of STEM persistence for all students at selective universities, and that female students at selective schools are more likely to be underconfident than their male counterparts. Our findings suggest that the appropriate policy solution to reduce STEM attrition rates among women should then become a two-pronged approach: (1) more selective universities should better support the STEM self-confidence levels of female students, and (2) home environments should ideally cultivate that self-confidence long before women even reach college. In our final set of analyses, we thus explore the factors that drive math overconfidence in the first place, and conclude that both student and parental biases against female STEM ability are detrimental to the STEM self-confidence of female students.

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Advisors: Professor Peter Arcidiacono, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: I2, I24, I26

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

Measuring the Long-term Effects of Orphanhood

By Nicholas Thomas Gardner

This paper works towards developing the narrative of orphans whose parent or parents died from natural disaster. By taking advantage of the unanticipated nature of death from the 2004
Indonesian tsunami, orphanhood can be treated as much closer to random than similar literature using data centered on HIV/AIDS related deaths. We use a community level fixed effects model to attempt to derive a causal relationship between orphanhood and both education and log wages. Our models suggest that orphaned males aged 14 and older at baseline complete 1-2 fewer years of education than their cohorts. The adverse effects persist in the long-term, as these orphans earn 26% less than non-orphan cohorts.

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Advisors: Duncan Thomas and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: I24, I25, I31, J24, J31

Determinants of SAT Scores in North Carolina

By Abby Snyder

This paper examines the effects of different school and district characteristics on SAT scores across North Carolina from 2007 to 2014. Such characteristics include demographics, poverty and wealth indicators, measures of classroom environment, and achievement levels. A pooled time series panel across districts and schools with fixed effects is used to determine the strength of influence these variables have on scores. Ultimately, this paper identifies which characteristics lead to over or underperformance relative to predicted values; further, it considers the implications of the SAT being more of an “achievement” test versus an “aptitude” test.

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Advisor: Charles Becker | JEL Codes: I2, I24 | Tagged: Achievement Gap, Aptitude Test, Education, SAT

The Impact of Greek Affiliation on Grades and Course Selection

By Andrew De Donato

We seek to understand how affiliating with a Greek organization impacts both grades and course selection. This research provides a novel addition to the literature due to a unique situation at the sample university, in that the first opportunity for freshmen to join Greek organizations occurs in the spring semester rather than the fall, as is more common. This situation allows us to control for otherwise unobserved characteristics that may be common to those who affiliate with Greek organizations. For men, joining a Greek organization is associated with a .07 point decrease in the grade received for an average class, while, for women, it is associated with an increase of .02 points in the fall semester and a decrease of .06 points in the spring semester. Joining a Greek organization is also associated with a decrease in the difficulty of selected courses, such that the average course selected provides grades that are .03 points higher than the average course, controlling for enrolled student characteristics.

Honors Thesis

Advisor: Michelle Connolly, Peter Arcidiacon | JEL Codes: I, I21, I23, I24 | Tagged: Course Selection, Fraternity, GPA, Grades, Greek, Sorority

Neighborhood Effects and School Performance: The Impact of Public Housing Demolitions on Children in North Carolina

By Rebecca Aqostino

This study explores how the demolitions of particularly distressed public housing units, through the Home Ownership for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) grants program, have affected academic outcomes for children in adjacent neighborhoods in Durham and Wilmington, North Carolina. I measure neighborhood-level changes and individual effects through regression analysis. All students in demolition communities are compared to those in control communities: census blocks in the same cities with public housing units that were not demolished. Those in the Durham experiment community experienced statistically significant gains when compared to those in the control communities; the effect is insignificant in Wilmington.

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Advisor: Charles Becker | JEL Codes: C23, H41, H52, H75, I24, I25 | Tagged: Achievement, Demolitions, Distressed Housing, HOPE VI, Neighborhood Effects, Public Housing, School Performance


Undergraduate Program Assistant
Jennifer Becker

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly