Student Research

The economics department encourages majors to consider independent research projects as part of their major program. Each year, the most promising independent studies are considered for departmental honors.

2022 Honors Projects

High Honors portrait

Kate Fosburgh ’22 

"Economic Analysis of the Critical Habitat Designation Process for Endangered and Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973"

Habitat destruction is the leading cause of biodiversity loss in the US. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), habitat deemed essential to endangered and threatened species recovery is proposed as critical habitat (CH). CH areas are subject to regulations that could alter land development plans or increase costs. The potential economic opportunity cost created by CH regulations may lead to the exclusion of land proposed for CH designation, thereby reducing the conservation benefits of the CH rule. In this paper, I use a unique dataset collected from Federal Register (FR) documents to estimate the reduction in CH acreage from proposed to final ruling, both on the extensive and intensive margin. I find a negative relationship between the level of household income in an area proposed for CH and the probability that a CH gains acreage or maintains acreage during the establishment process. I also find some evidence that higher household income in a CH area is associated with a greater relative loss in acreage between proposal and finalization. I also find that private land proposed for CH designation is less likely to be in the final designation than federal land. Overall, my results suggest that economic considerations influence CH allocation decisions. Whether reducing the amount of private land subject to CH designations is socially efficient depends on the unknown economic benefit of private land exclusions versus the cost of biodiversity and ecosystem service loss that may result from not protecting all land deemed vital to species recovery.

Plans after graduation: Next year I will doing an Economic Research and Policy Development Fellowship with the County of Sonoma Economic Development Board. I am moving to San Francisco in August.

John Hood portrait

John Hood ’22

"Hot Boy Summer? Analyzing Managerial Reactions to Season-long Fluctuating Player Performance In Major League Baseball"

This paper suggests numerical weights that a Major League Baseball (MLB) manager may use when comparing player performance across multiple past performance periods to predict future performance. By the end of the MLB regular season, current season performance becomes more predictive than prior season performance for pitchers but not hitters. After estimating weights for different past time periods of performance, this paper compares the weights with how managers value performance in high-stakes situations across these same time periods. I find that MLB managers overreact to recent performance by both hitters and pitchers in postseason settings.

Plans after graduation: John has received a National Science Foundation scholarship to pursue a PhD at the University of Chicago in statistics.
Isabel Krogh portrait

Isabel Krogh ’22

"From American Dream to American Reality: The Effect of Educational Expenditures on Intergenerational Mobility and the Great Gatsby Curve"

Income inequality and intergenerational mobility are two common measures of economic fairness in society. While they measure distinct ideas, they are significantly related in an inverse way across countries as well as across regions in the United States. This relationship is illustrated on the Great Gatsby Curve. Unequal access to education is one factor that has been found to drive the negative relationship between these two measures and therefore create the negatively sloping Great Gatsby Curve. Therefore, creating more equal access to education, such as through government spending, could lessen the connection between these two factors. The primary purpose of this research is to explore the effect of public educational expenditure on intergenerational mobility as well as on the slope of the Great Gatsby Curve. At the primary/secondary education level, this study finds that places with higher public spending on education tend to have higher levels of intergenerational mobility. However, no significant relationship is found between spending on tertiary education and intergenerational mobility. In addition, while higher primary/secondary educational spending is associated with a flatter Great Gatsby Curve at the school district level, these results were not consistent at the commuting zone level, so no strong conclusions can be made about the effect of public educational expenditures as a mediating factor of the Great Gatsby Curve.

Plans after graduation: I will be joining the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a Senior Research Analyst with the Capital Markets team. I will be assisting two PhD economists with their research. After two years with the Federal Reserve, I hope to go back to graduate school and continue my passions for economics and math.

Maynor Loaisiga Bojorge ’22 portrait

Maynor Loaisige Bojorge ’22

"New Institutional Economics: Political Institutions and Divergent Development in Costa Rica and Honduras"

For most of their histories, Costa Rica and Honduras were primarily agricultural societies with little economic diversification. However, around 1990, after the implementation of Washington Consensus reforms, the economies of both nations began to diverge. Costa Rica’s economy rapidly expanded for the following 30 years, while Honduras remained stagnant. Through a New Institutional Economics approach, I argue that institutional differences between Costa Rica and Honduras are responsible for the impressive economic growth Costa Rica has been able to achieve in the past few decades. Specifically, early political developments in Costa Rica have deeply imbedded relatively egalitarian values into the population, helping shape formal and informal inclusive political institutions. Meanwhile, Honduras experienced the development of extractive political institutions, as political and economic power was heavily concentrated in the hands of a select few. These political institutions were crucial during the implementation stages of Washington Consensus reforms, as strong and inclusive political institutions attracted Foreign Direct Investment that helped propel the Costa Rican economy and materialize its position as an outlier in the region. In contrast, lack of institutional guarantees discouraged foreign investors from investing money into the Honduran economy. Through a deep dive into the political histories of both nations, from European discovery to modernity, I conclude that the political institutions of these Central American nations have determined their economic growth paths.

Plans after graduation: I will be a private banking analyst at Citigroup, based out of New York City, New York

Levi McAtee ’22

Levi McAtee ’22

"A Stepping-Stone? An Analysis of How the Minimum Wage Impacts the Wage Growth of Individuals in Monopsonistic Industries"

Do minimum wage increases serve as stepping-stones to higher-paying jobs for low-pay workers? This paper analyzes the impact of state minimum wage policy on the one-year wage growth rates of individuals across the wage distribution and whether that impact changes for individuals in highly monopsonistic industries. I review the recent literature on the disemployment effect, the impact of the minimum wage on wage growth rates, the nature of monopsonistic industries, and the relationship between the minimum wage and monopsony power. I offer theoretical reasons why the minimum wage may impact the wage growth rates of individuals in monopsonistic industries differently than it impacts those of individuals in competitive industries. I then re-estimate Lopresti’s and Mumford’s (2016) panel fixed effects model to determine how the effect of a minimum wage increase depends nonlinearly on the size of the increase. Using data from 2005-2008, Lopresti and Mumford found that small minimum wage increases have a significant negative impact on wage growth rates, while large minimum wage increases have a significant positive impact. Using data from 2016-2019, I find similar results. As my primary empirical contribution, I test whether individuals in highly monopsonistic industries experience minimum wage changes differently than individuals in more competitive industries. I find monopsony power in the form of high labor immobility primarily impacts the wage growth rates of high-pay workers and does not influence how low-pay workers experience minimum wage changes. Finally, I recommend policymakers impose larger minimum wage increases to avoid impeding the wage-growth of low-pay workers.

Plans after graduation: I will be working as a Research Analyst at Industrial Economics in Cambridge MA when I graduate. 

Jack Shane ’22

Jack Shane ’22

"Digital Market Concentration: An Institutional and Social Cost Analysis"

In this thesis, I develop an analysis of the industry concentration seen in digital markets today. I begin with a description and argument for the use of institutional economics. This framework allows for the integration of an interdisciplinary approach to economics. My analysis details the socioeconomic and political impacts, as well as the underlying market dynamics that have pushed digital markets towards concentration. I offer novel explanations for the lack of firm behavior that should theoretically increase profit, the existence of barriers to competition, and consumer behavior that focus on the role of social institutions. I also detail many of the social costs of these concentrated markets, such as their impact on democracy, power to influence social institutions, and the impact they have on concentration in other markets. This is done to show that the fears surrounding monopolies do not end with prices. Even in digital markets, where many times prices are very low, if not zero, there are reasons that monopoly is economically inefficient and socially sub-optimal. However, due to the path-dependent nature of the extreme benefits associated with digital markets, policy- makers cannot reasonably propose breaking up these companies. Instead, they must use the power of the government to counteract the conglomerations of social power seen in these private companies in search of an optimal outcome.

Plans after graduation: I am going to Stanford University to research health policy with Grant Miller. After this I hope to go to grad school in economics and eventually become a professor.

Past honors projects