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Social Capital and Financial Development after Economic Shocks: Evidence from Italy after the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009

By Sujay Rao & Ethan Lampert

Like traditional forms of capital, social capital – an intangible measure of an individual’s social networks, trust in institutions, and participation in civic life – has implications for personal and financial behavior. Individuals from educated, well established backgrounds with fruitful family ties may be more amenable to opening new lines of credit or investing in stock markets due to their trust in and connectedness with society. But what happens after a major economic shock, such as the financial crisis of 2008? Using Italy as a case study and panel data from the Survey of Household Income and Wealth, we find that social capital has significant effects on an individual’s credit card usage, informal borrowing, and choice to invest in securities.

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Advisors: Professor Grace Kim, Professor Michelle Connolly, Professor Giovanni Zanalda | JEL Codes: G01, G2, O1, D1, D14

The Impact of Microfinance on Women’s Empowerment: Evidence from Rural Areas of Uganda

By Sonia Maria Hernandez

Microfinance is the practice of extending small collateral-free loans to underserved populations in developing areas with no access to credit. The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) randomized access to microfinance treatment for women in rural areas of Uganda and tracked outcomes through surveys. This research determines the impact of microfinance by analyzing outcomes over five dimensions of women’s empowerment, including decision making power, community participation, business outcomes, emotional wellness, and beliefs about women. The strongest results showed that access to the VSLA program empowered women in terms of business outcomes and decision-making power. This leads to the conclusion that microfinance can more easily impact how a woman behaves within the household than change how a woman behaves within the community.

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Advisors: Professor Kent Kimbrough, Professor Lori Leachman | JEL Codes: O1, O12, O35

Evaluating Economic Impacts of Electrification in Zambia

By Aashna Aggarwal

Energy poverty is prevalent in Zambia. It is one of the world’s least electrified nations with 69% of its citizens living in darkness, without access to grid electricity. Zambian government has a goal to achieve universal electricity access in urban areas and increase rural electrification to 51% by 2030. With its main goal to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of Zambians. Electrification is expected to have positive impacts on health, education and employment play an important role to achieve wellbeing, however, previous studies and analysis of renewable energy programs have found different, context-dependent results. To evaluate the impacts of electrification in Zambia I have used the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey (LCMS) of 2015 and applied two different estimation techniques: non-linear regressions and propensity score matching. My study finds that firewood consumption significantly decreases with assess to electricity and education has positive outcomes on grade attainment. I negligible effects on wage earning employment outcomes respiratory health outcomes. Based on these results I conclude that access to grid electrification does have certain positive impacts but empirical evidence is not as strong as the theoretical claims.

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Advisors: Dr. Robyn Meeks and Dr. Grace Kim | JEL Codes: C31; C78; O13; Q40

Deciphering Chinese Financing To African Countries

By Gwen Geng

The paper considers what attracts Chinese aid and Chinese investment to African countries and what kinds of Chinese financing projects are more likely to have unrevealed financing amount. The main database used is AidData: China’s Official Finance to Africa 2000-2012. It contains 2356 Chinese financing projects to 50 African countries. The results suggest that Chinese aid supports less developed economies, while Chinese investment favors countries with resource abundance and political conditions conducive to profit-making. The findings show that projects with unrevealed funding amounts tend to fall under investment and the government sector among other categories, raising questions on financing secrecy.

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Advisors: Robert Garlick and Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: F13, F54, N47, N57, O24, R11, R15

Sister competition and birth order effects among marriage-aged girls: Evidence from a field experiment in rural Bangladesh

By Stephanie Zhong

Early marriage before the age of 18 is prevalent among adolescent girls in Bangladesh, but the timing of marriage is not uniform across daughters within a household, with some sisters marrying earlier than others. Using survey data from a novel field experiment from rural Bangladesh, I find that girls ages 10-21 with lower birth order tend to be married at a younger age, even when controlling for confounding nature of household size on birth order. Additionally, girls with younger sisters are more likely to be married and at a younger age than girls with younger brothers. The findings on dowry are inclusive.

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Advisors: Dr. Erica Field and Dr. Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D13, J13, O15

Endogeneity in the Decision to Migrate: Changes in the Self-Selection of Puerto Rican Migrants before, during, and after the Great Recession

By Aasha Reddy 

Migrants self-select on characteristics such as income. We use the U.S. Census’ ACS and PRCS to study changes in selection patterns of Puerto Rican migrants to the to the U.S. mainland (50 states) before, during, and after the Great Recession (2005 to 2016). We construct counterfactual income densities to compare incomes of Puerto Rican migrants to the mainland versus incomes of island residents under equivalent returns to skill. We examine where Puerto Rican migrants to the mainland tend to fall in the island’s income distribution and find that Puerto Rican migrants tend to come from the top 20% of the island’s income distribution. This pattern remained stable with little to no effect of the Great Recession on selectivity patterns.

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Advisors: William Darity and Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: J15, J61, O15

Evaluating The Forward Citations-Patent Value Relationship: The Role Of Competition

By Neelesh T. Moorthy

I assess whether forward citations—how often patents are cited by subsequent patents—reliably capture patent quality. A high-quality invention might lack forward citations if there are no competing, patenting firms. This introduces measurement error in using citations to measure patent value. I test whether greater competition makes forward citations better measures of patent quality, with eight and twelve-year patent renewal rates serving as my benchmark measures of patent quality. Patent data come from the manufacturing survey in Cohen, Nelson, and Walsh (2000). I conduct logit regressions of patent renewal on forward citations and the number of competitors faced by surveyed manufacturing labs. While the regression results do not support the competition hypothesis, they confirm that forward citations positively predict renewal. They also lend insight into firms’ strategic renewal decisions.

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Advisors: Wesley Cohen and Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: O31, O34

The Impact of a Fixed Exchange Rate Regime on Growth and Volatility in an Oil-­‐‑dependent Economy

By Shihab Osman Malik and Faisal Bandar Alsaadi 

This study examines the relationship between the fixed exchange rate regime, economic growth, and output volatility in oil-­‐‑producing Saudi Arabia over the post-­‐‑Bretton Woods period (1973–2016). We assess the implications of the current exchange rate regime on macroeconomic and growth performance, and evaluate its sustainability in the context of oil-­‐‑dependency and market dynamics. We develop and employ a theoretical framework and empirical specification based on previous literature to find that for Saudi Arabia, the fix is associated with faster growth and lower output volatility. We believe the result is primarily driven by the credibility of the fix in terms of establishing a strong nominal anchor and monetary policy framework.

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Advisor: Lori Leachman | JEL Codes: E42, F31, F36, F41, O53

Evaluation of the Impact of New Rules in FCC’s Spectrum Incentive Auction

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.

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Advisor: Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L5, O3, K2, D44, L96

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

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