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Variability in Jury Awards for Noneconomic Damages in Motor Vehicle Negligence Cases

By Max Cherman  

I analyze the efficiency of jury awards for noneconomic compensatory damages awarded to automobile accident victims suffering nonfatal injuries bringing motor vehicle negligence tort claims. Data from 1002 Jury Verdict Research (JVR) case abstracts was narrowed down to 218 observations of plaintiffs receiving noneconomic damages awards at trials involving motor vehicle negligence from 1988-2019 across the United States. Using age-specific value of life estimations, functional capacity losses associated with plaintiffs’ injuries, and productivity losses, I estimate an ‘expected’ noneconomic damages award that serves as a benchmark against which I compare observed awards. I regress the natural log of the ratio of observed to ‘expected’ awards on injury- severity-level indicator variables and other controls, thus attempting to find whether juries award disproportionately high or low noneconomic damages awards in accordance with plaintiff, defendant, or case-specific factors. I conclude that juries award disproportionate noneconomic damages at the opposite ends of the injury severity spectrum, with plaintiffs suffering severe injuries receiving disproportionately high awards. I also find that juries punish business and government entity plaintiffs. These results serve as evidence that jury decision-making is indeed significantly impacted by hindsight bias in large-value cases and attempts to punish supposedly wealthier defendants, creating inconsistency (variability) in compensatory damages award determinations.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins, Professor Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: K1, K13, Q51

Responses to EU Carbon Pricing: The Effect of Carbon Emissions Allowances on Renewable Energy Development in Advanced and Transitional EU Members

By John Dearing

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: Dr. Lincoln Pratson, Professor Christopher Timmins | JEL Codes: Q4, Q43, Q48, Q5, Q52, Q56, Q58

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

Global Warming and Obesity: The Effect of Ambient Temperature on BMI

By Aakash Jain

Previous research has shown that ambient temperature affects human metabolism and behavior. Inspired by these findings, this study examines the effect of lagged annual temperatures in the United States on average reported BMI. The results indicate that higher temperatures in the future will lead to increases in average BMI. A conservative estimate suggests that a 1 °C increase in temperature sustained for 10 years would result in a 0.15 unit increase in average BMI and an additional $15.5 billion in annual health care expenditure.

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Advisor: Billy Pizer | JEL Codes: Q5, Q54, I1, I10

The Impact of Environmental Disamenities on Property Values: Evaluating the Municipal Fringe

By Ryan B. Hoecker

This paper analyzes the municipal fringe of cities in Eastern North Carolina between 2006-2016, and how the values of individual properties on the outskirts can fluctuate after they are
incorporated within a city. A large portion of the research process consisted of manually recreating annexation ordinances from scanned photocopies on ArcGIS, creating the first geographic archive of annexations in North Carolina compatible with digital software. As environmental nuisances, such as landfills and hazardous waste sites, are often located on town borders, this study pays specific attention to how their presence affects the change in property values before and after annexation. Results show that incorporation brings with it higher property values, and that the impact of annexation is greater in the presence of nuisances that threaten water quality for private wells.

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Advisor: Christopher Timmins | JEL Codes: H79, Q53, R31

The Effect of Federal Regulations on the Outcomes of Auctions for Oil and Gas Leaseholds

By Artur Shikhaleev

This thesis attempts to analyze the impact of the differences in regulatory frameworks that govern state-owned and federally-owned lands on the outcomes of auctions for oil and natural gas leaseholds in the state of New Mexico. The analysis tries to isolate the effect of ownership by controlling for auction structure, leasehold characteristics, and prices of underlying resources. Given past research, the hypothesis is that stricter regulations carry a heavier cost to buyers, so the expectation is that federally-owned leaseholds, which are more regulated, are traded at a discount to state-owned leaseholds. However, the result of this thesis is contradictory to the hypothesis. The conclusion is that stricter regulations do not lead to a discounted auction price for an oil and gas leasehold.

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Advisor: James Roberts, Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: C12, C21, Q35, Q58 | Tagged: Auction, Education, environment, federal, natural gas, Oil, Regulation, State

The Effects of Global Oil Price on Government Investment the Nigerian Agricultural Sector

By Chuka Obiofuma

Nigeria’s heavy dependence on oil makes it a prime target for the resource curse. The occurance of this phenomenon in Nigeria could mean that there is capital flight from the agricultural sectors of the economy when the oil sector increases in profitability. This would disproportionately hurt the poor of Nigeria who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. This work investigates whether or not the Nigerian government, the largest investor into the Agricultural sector, tends to increase or decrease its investment in the agricultural sector as global oil prices rise. Using data from the years 1978-2014, the results of this paper show that as oil prices increase so too does the Nigerian government’s investment in its agricultural sector.

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Advisor: Alison Hagy, Gale Boyd | JEL Codes: I28, O13, Q43 | Tagged:  Agriculture, Energy, Government Policy

Optimizing the Electricity Bill Creating a two-part electricity tariffs to induce a targeted level of rooftop solar adoption while meeting utility operating expenses

By Hoel Weisner

Renewable energy technologies are a much needed, clean alternative to the conventional fossil fuel electricity power plants of the last century. The market for installing solar panels on rooftops is a highly promising avenue for expanding the use of these technologies, but its profitability depends significantly on the electricity prices offered by electric utilities. Investing in solar panels offset a percentage of the electricity purchased from the utility. This paper models the investment decision of electricity consumers and looks at what the optimal per unit price of electricity should be in order to make building solar panels a profitable decision for a target share of households. The model shows how this optimal rate decreases at lower prices of investing, when the share of utility-purchased electricity offset by the panels increases, and when the target level of solar adoption decreases. Finally, it looks at how this per unit rate impacts the utility’s decision to set a fixed monthly charge for electricity in order to recover all of its operating expenses.

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Advisor: Leslie Marx | JEL Codes: L94, Q42, Q48 | Tagged: Electricity Price, Renewable Energy, Solar Electricity

Shale Gas Development and Housing Value in the United Kingdom: Impact of the 13th Onshore Licensing, 2008

By Esther Lho

While shale gas is a prospective energy source, it is known to bring environmental deficits to the drilling neighborhood. Because of such concerns, property values fluctuate upon the possibility of shale gas fracturing. This paper examines the change in housing prices before and after the release of the 13th onshore oil and gas licensing round, which took place in 2008 when shale gas was increasingly being considered as the alternative to ease the United Kingdom’s dependency on coal. Results suggest that the 2008 licensing has caused a 3% decrease in housing price growth rate for the licensed areas.

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Advisor: Christopher Timmins | JEL Codes: Q42, Q5, Q51 | Tagged: Consumer Expectation, Fracturing, Hedonic Price, Housing Prices, Property valuation, Shale Gas, United Kingdom

Exceeding the Threshold: Analysis of Public Information Transfer using Instrumental Variables

By Gabrielle Inder

This paper examines how information transfer about contamination levels found at brownfield sites capitalizes into nearby property values. More specifically, a hedonic model is used to test the impact on housing transaction prices when a binary measure (i.e. exceeding a threshold or not) or a continuous measure (i.e. chemical levels) is used. In the analysis, I exploit the variation in the contaminant thresholds, caused by regulatory conditions defined by the state of Massachusetts, holding the contaminant level constant. As thresholds are tied to neighborhood attributes in areas surrounding brownfields, threshold exceedance is potentially correlated to unobserved factors that impact housing values. An instrumental variables approach is used to create variation in threshold
exceedance through the use of an instrument that measures the presence to underground aquifers. After instrumenting for threshold exceedance, my estimates indicate that a 10.8% decrease in housing values occurs when a contaminant threshold is exceeded, while the continuous measures of toxicity indicate a negative but insignificant effect. These findings suggest that policy makers should consider information conveyance when creating policies to inform homeowners of pollution presence, as improved information provision may increase public awareness about local environmental concerns.

Honors Thesis

Data Set

Advisor: Christopher Timmins, Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C26, Q5, Q53 | Tagged: Brownfields, Hedonic Analysis, Housing Markets, Instrumental Variables, Pollution


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