By Tommaso Carlo Filippo Babucci
Although still prohibited at the federal level, cannabis can now be found on the shelves of recreational dispensaries across thirty-three U.S states. This thesis examines the development of this legal market from both historical and empirical perspectives. Using a new data set, it estimates the determinants of cannabis sales and tax revenues in the Colorado market and analyzes the incidence of a single tax increase. The results, which suggest that legal cannabis behaves like a luxury good, are used to analyze the potential for cannabis-funded reparations programs in Illinois, which recently approved recreational sales of cannabis.
Advisors: Professor Connel Fullenkamp | JEL Codes: H2, R50, L15
By Andie Carroll
As nonprofits work to serve their communities, they must choose a place to locate that best suits their needs and the needs of the population they aim to serve. Locational characteristics such as median income and population density have been shown to impact how many nonprofits choose to locate in a given area. However, few studies have examined the impact of locational characteristics on how nonprofits survive and thrive. This study examines the impact of geographic and demographic factors on nonprofit survival and success through a case study of El Sistema USA (ESUSA), a nationwide network of music education programs with the goal of helping underserved youth. The study analyzes panel survey data from 131 El Sistema-inspired programs in the U.S. from 2005 to 2018 along with demographic data from the American Community Survey, charitable giving data from the IRS, and GIS data compiled through a review of ESUSA program websites. By using regression models of ESUSA program survival and success (defined by more students served and higher program budgets), this study found that ESUSA programs in areas of more need are more likely to survive and thrive.
Advisors: Professor Lorrie Schmid, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L3, L31, D23
The Upstream and Downstream Effects of Government Industrial Policy in the Rare Earth Elements Industry
By Charles Daniel
The Chinese government has found considerable success in stimulating economic modernization through its industrial policy. The development of the rare earths industry, in both upstream and downstream markets, exemplifies this success. Rare earths are a group of metals whose natural properties make them critical for many pieces of modern technology. Upstream, Chinese raw rare earth producers extracted minimal output in 1985; by 2001 they accounted for more than 90 percent of global production. China stimulated this growth beginning in 1990 with implicit and explicit subsidies for rare earth producers, which enabled them to enter the market and produce at lower marginal costs than other world firms. These lower costs enabled Chinese producers to assume a market-leading position, and this paper explains the resulting developments in the upstream rare earth market through the Stackelberg model, which describes sequential quantity competition. In 2006, China introduced an additional policy of export quotas on rare earths, intended to benefit downstream Chinese firms. These firms depend on rare earths as inputs for the final goods (such as batteries and personal electronics) they produce. After the quota announcement, Chinese downstream firms benefitted from continued unrestricted access to rare earths, while non-Chinese downstream firms faced higher costs on the world market for rare earth inputs. This paper uses the Bertrand model, in which firms compete on prices, to examine the subsequent effects on these downstream markets. While Chinese rare earth producers were harmed by the export quotas, the combination of the subsidy and the export quotas enabled China to complete its economic goals: to first gain leverage in the rare earths industry, and to second transition its economy toward higher-value products and services.
Advisors: Professor Alexander Pfaff, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L5, L52, L13
By Varun Prasad
Healthcare is projected to soon become the industry with the largest amount of spending on research and development in the world. While competition has the potential to catalyze the development of new healthcare technologies and drive down costs, increases in competition have also been thought to hinder innovation as a result of thinner profit margins and reduced incentives. I estimate whether and to what extent competition in the medical device industry promotes innovation. Using Food and Drug Administration data on medical device applications from 1976 to 2019, I examine how original equipment manufacturers respond to the entry of third-party reprocessed devices. I find that, when controlling for year and medical specialty, the introduction of a reprocessed device leads to an almost five-fold increase in new device applications by original manufacturers after both one and two years. These results suggest that an increase in competition within the medical device market has spurred innovation and the development of new technologies.
Advisors: Professor James Roberts, Professor David Ridley | JEL Codes: L1, D22, L65
By Stephanie Wiehe
The US market for toothpaste, like many other goods, is shifting towards selling
in bulk. Multipacks of toothpaste require quantity discounts to incentivize consumers, making buying in bulk a great deal for the savings-minded toothpaste-shopper. It is more difficult to understand, however, producers’ willingness to sell multipacks of toothpaste, when margins are necessarily slimmer than single tubes due to quantity discounts. This paper explores the consumer’s decision in purchasing toothpaste as an interaction between savings on price and inventory considerations, like shopping and carrying costs. My model combines aspects of prior works on second degree price discrimination and quantity discounts with alterations to fit the intricacies of the market for toothpaste. The model’s predictions support the possibility of pack size as a tool for second degree price discrimination as shopping and carrying costs constitute two markets with different price elasticities of demand for single and multipacks of toothpaste. This work adds to the existing literature on storable goods and non-linear pricing and brings a new economics-based approach to a question faced by toothpaste producers.
Advisors: Professor Allan Collard-Wexler, | JEL Codes: L11; L42; D4
ICT Behavior at the Periphery: Exploring the Social Effect of the Digital Divide through Interest in Video Streaming
By Erik W. Hanson and Justin C. LoTurco
We investigate the factors that influence changes in consumer behavior with regard to video streaming. We focus our analysis on the effect of bandwidth impairment to explore a potential consequence of the digital divide. To measure the change in relative popularity of video streaming services, we use Google Trends data as a proxy. We then investigate whether broadband speed improvements in rural vs. urban regions affect the proxy differently. We find that increasing the broadband speeds in rural regions appears to stimulate greater interest in video streaming than equivalent speed increases in urban regions.
Advisors: Professor Michelle Connolly, Professor Grace Kim | JEL Codes: C33; J11; L96
Does Media Coverage of Sexual Assault Cases Cause Victims to Go to the Police? Evidence from FBI Data and Google Trends
By Harry Elworthy
This paper investigates the effect that national news coverage of prominent sexual assaults has on the reporting decisions of sexual assault victims. Estimates are based on time series data of reports made to police stations in the US from 2008 to 2016 and Google Trends data of search volume, along with an identification strategy that uses a number of individual high profile sexual assault allegations and related events as instruments. By removing assaults that occurred on the day that they were reported, I estimate the effect of coverage only on the reporting of assaults, and not on assaults themselves. A significant positive effect of news coverage on sexual assault reporting is found using several specifications. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that there were between 31 and 121 additional reports of sexual assault for each of the 38 high profile events captured. No evidence is found to suggest that these additional reports of sexual assault have different arrest rates to other reports, indicating that there are not a significant number of false reports. This paper adds to current literature on the sexual assault reporting decision by considering the effect of news coverage and by using different methods of inference to previous papers.
Advisor: Professor Patrick Bayer | JEL Codes: D91, J16, K42, L86, Z13
By Lucas Do
The state of Michigan administers oil and gas lease auctions semiannually through the Department of Natural Resources. In June 2012, the international news outlet Reuters published allegations of bid-rigging following the Department’s May 2010 auction. This paper empirically investigates the validity of Reuters’ allegations by analyzing auction bid sheets from 2008 to 2018 as well as other data reflecting market conditions over time. To this end, I first formulate a benchmark structural model of bidders’ valuations and estimate it with auction data from a period during which I assume no collusion occurred. Then, I extend the benchmark model by endogenizing bidders’ decision to collude. Using the extended model and the estimated benchmark parameters, I apply the simulated method of moments to solve for the collusive probability that “best” explains the observed bids during the alleged period of collusion. After discovering strong evidence for bid-rigging, I run counterfactual simulations to estimate the revenue damage caused to the state of Michigan by this non-competitive bidding behavior. I find that the hypothetical revenue damage, summed over the entire alleged collusive period, totals over $450 million. However, although these findings lend support to Reuters’ allegations and are contrary to the Department of Justice’s conclusion in 2014 after they had probed the case, they should be approached only with caution, given the limitations of the available data on the potential bidders.
Advisors: Professor Jame Roberts, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L4, D44, L71
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.
Advisor: Dr. James Roberts | JEL Codes: I23, J24, L82, L83, Z2
By Elizabeth Lim, Akshaya Trivedi and Frances Mitchell
On March 29, 2016, the FCC initiated its first ever two-sided spectrum auction. The auction closed approximately one year later, having repurposed a total of 84 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum. The “Incentive Auction” included three primary components: (1) a reverse auction where broadcasters bid on the price at which they would voluntarily relinquish their current spectrum usage rights, (2) a forward ascending clock auction for flexible use wireless licenses which determined the winning bids for licenses within a given geographic region, and (3) an assignment phase, where winning bidders from the forward auction participated in single-bid, second price sealed auctions to determine the exact frequencies individual licenses would be assigned within that geographic region. The reverse auction and the forward auction together constituted a “stage.” To guarantee that sufficient MHz were cleared, the auction included a “final stage rule” which, if not met, triggered a clearing of the previous stage and the start of a new stage. This rule led to a total of four stages taking place in the Incentive Auction before the final assignment phase took place. Even at first glance, the Incentive Auction is unique among FCC spectrum auctions. Here we consider the estimated true valuation for these licenses based on market conditions. We further compare these results to more recent outcomes in previous FCC spectrum auctions for wireless services to determine if this novel auction mechanism
impacted auction outcomes.
Advisor: Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L5, O3, K2, D44, L96