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Taxing Marijuana and the Road to Reparations:  Comparing the Colorado and Illinois Cannabis Markets

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.

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Advisors: Professor Connel Fullenkamp | JEL Codes: H2, R50, L15

The Impact of Agglomeration Externalities on Product Innovation Output in Chinese Industrial Firms

By Cindy Feng  

Agglomeration externalities is defined as the economic benefits from concentrating firms, housing, and output. This study investigates the impact of agglomeration externalities of industrial firms on product innovation output in China. In the research, I specified the impact of agglomeration into three types: Marshallian or localization externalities, defined as the impact of collocating with same-industry firms; Urbanization economies, defined as the impact of collocating with different-industry firms, and Porter externalities, the impact of competing with same-industry firms as a result of localization. My result suggests endogenous spatial selection of firms account for most of the agglomeration impacts we observe. Despite so, urbanization economies is still impactful in boosting a firm’s innovation performance, and should be taken into account as the government implements policies that boost firm performance.

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Advisors: Professor Charles Becker, Professor Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: R3, D24, R50

Where You Live and Where You Move: A Cross-City Comparison of the Effects of Gentrification and How these Effects Are Tied to Racial History

By Divya Juneja   

This thesis compares the effects of gentrification on school and air quality in ten cities to see whether cities with larger amounts of white flight post-World War II exhibited worse gentrification effects on renters. I find that renters in high white flight cities more consistently experience school quality downgrades—likely attributed to moving from gentrifying neighborhoods to worse neighborhoods. High white flight meant widespread de-investment across neighborhoods which could have lowered the school quality experienced by displaced renters. Gentrification did not consistently affect air quality in any way related to white flight, meaning confounding variables could have influence.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins, Professor Alison Hagy | JEL Codes: R2, R3, J11

An Unequal Dream: The Mortgage Rate Premium Paid by Black Communities

By Michael Nicholson   

This paper analyzes loan pricing discrimination against predominantly black communities in U.S. mortgage markets. Building on previous literature, this paper posits that ceteris paribus predominantly black communities continue to face economically significant discrimination in mortgage pricing. Ultimately, this paper concludes that predominantly black communities face 10-14 basis points of pricing discrimination in mortgage loans which corresponds to 12.6-17.6% higher rate spreads. This estimation comes after accounting for geographic and lender effects, borrower quality, tract-level characteristics, and loan type. These results confirm past findings of pricing discrimination and illustrate yet another financial barrier for black households in this country.

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Advisors: Professor Emma Rasiel, Professor Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: R2, J15, G21

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

Is Inclusionary Zoning a Proper Remedy for the Affordable Housing Crisis? —A Case Study of IZ Programs in New Jersey and North Carolina

By Xinchen Li

The recent decade witnessed a worsening of the affordable housing crisis across the
country. Inclusionary zoning (IZ) has been a popular municipal remedy for the crisis.
However, it is unclear whether IZ actually adds to the affordable housing stock, and
whether it achieves its goal at the expense of average homeowners. Through a case
study of New Jersey and North Carolina, this paper aims to address these two questions.The results suggest that there is no statistically significant positive relationship between the presence of IZ and the housing price in the two states, but its beneficiary effects are also debatable.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins | JEL Codes: D10 ; R2; R21

Landlords and Evictions: Changes in the Ownership of Multi-Family Rental Properties and Its Impact on Housing Stability in Durham, NC

By Ekim Buyuk

This thesis investigates the changes in the ownership of multi-family rental complexes in
Durham between 2000 and 2018 and their subsequent impact on housing stability. Specifically, I model and compare the likelihood that an eviction filing is issued by corporate and individual landlords in the periods before and after a transaction. Since the early 2000s, institutional investor share in all property sizes has increased dramatically in the United States. In 2013, the Blackstone Group released the first-ever rated bond backed by single-family securitized rental payments, and since then, numerous firms have followed with similar security offerings, which as of 2018 include bonds backed by multi family rental income. The surge of institutional investment in multi-family rental properties and its impacts on communities have remained largely ignored in academic literature. Durham County currently holds one of the highest eviction rates in North Carolina and ranks in the top 40 of highest evicting large cities in the United States. In my thesis, I uncover how ownership of rental properties in Durham has changed since the early 2000s and investigate whether the behaviors of “corporate landlords” differ significantly from those of individual investors (or “mom and pop” landlords”). I find that the proportion of properties under corporate ownership has increased across all property sizes since 2000, and the proportion of corporate owners that are based out-of-state has also increased. I also find evidence to suggest that different sizes of multi-family properties should be examined distinctly, as I uncover different trends across property sizes in both ownership and eviction rates. Using a fixed effects model, I find that overall, individuals appear to have a higher likelihood of filing an eviction against a tenant compared to institutional landlords in the months before and after a transaction. Finally, I find that large investors amongst both corporates and individuals, defined as investors that own more than 15 properties in Durham, are significantly more likely to evict than smaller investors are.

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Advisors: Professor Christopher Timmins, Professor Colin Rundel | JEL Codes: R3, R31

Durham and Gentrification: Assessing the Impact of Displacement in the Bull City

By Armin Hakimzadeh Ameri

In this paper, I look to Durham, North Carolina, to demonstrate potential harms from gentrification. Using an expansive proprietary dataset, I come to two main conclusions: first, there is a significant link between gentrification and displacement, as low-income renters are constrained by increased prices and are forced to leave their neighborhoods. Second, displaced renters are significantly more likely to move into communities with higher crime rates, worse schools, and increased rates of poverty. These results suggest that the Durham government should enact policies protecting low-income renters and other at-risk groups while also balancing the benefits of gentrification.

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Advisors: Dr. Christopher Timmins, and Dr. Grace Kim | JEL Codes: R2, R3

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

The Impact of Access to Public Transportation on Residential Property Value: A Comparative Analysis of American Cities

By Moses Snow Wayne

This paper develops a consistent model for analyzing the impact of access to public transportation on property value applied to the four cities of Atlanta, Boston, New York, and San Francisco. This study finds a negative relationship between increasing distance to public transit and property value. Additionally, the elicited effects in each city generally align with geographic features and the degree to which a city is monocentric. This study also demonstrates the salience of using actual map-generated distances as proximity measures and characteristics of public
transit systems in modeling the relationship between public transportation and residential property value.

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Advisors: Dr. Patrick Bayer and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: C12, R14, R30, R41

Questions?

Undergraduate Program Assistant
Jennifer Becker
dus_asst@econ.duke.edu

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly
michelle.connolly@duke.edu