Senior Theses 2020

 Dr. Chuck Moul teaches a class in the Farmer School
Student raises her hand during class
 Student shuffles papers on his desk
Figures and equations on a whiteboard
 Students listen to an Economics class lecture

Julia Bragg (Adviser: Advisor: Mark Tremblay)

“Surviving Survivor: How Alliances Persevere in Survivor”

Abstract: Survivor is often credited with launching the reality television fad of the 2000s and
remains a widely popular show today, yet very few empirical studies have focused on
this topic. This paper examines the factors affecting whether an alliance will stay
together or break apart. Our estimates show that a 10% increase in coalition size
increases the probability the coalition will stay together by 6.30%. In addition, a 10%
increase in a player’s voting history with players outside their coalition decreases the
probability the coalition will stay together by 6.12%. These results are robust to several
alternative specifications, including both linear and non-linear models, models that
separate contestants by age and gender, and models that focus on twists in the game.
Further, I conclude that these results can be generalized and applied to settings outside
of Survivor; for example, in workplace environments where coalitions may break apart
as workers progress up the employment ladder.

Joshua Brown (Advisers: George Davis, Gerald Granderson)

“What Makes a Good Coach? A Case for NBA Teams Playing up to Their Potentials”

Abstract: In this paper, we argue that using data from the playoffs when studying team performance is theoretically superior to using data from the regular season. We develop a measure of NBA playoff performance called the Playoffs Success Indicator (PSI) and apply it to a stochastic frontier production function in order to study (1) performance in the NBA playoffs, (2) how efficiently playoff teams perform given their current players, and (3) the characteristics of coaches that affect that efficiency. We find that, to be successful in the playoffs, the average team should strive to be more well-rounded rather than looking for one superstar. We also find that playoff efficiency is positively associated with the number of years a coach has been in the league and the number of wins he or she has accrued in the playoffs. Finally, we find that all playoff experience is not equal, and that a coach’s past playoff losses are actually negatively associated with playoff efficiency.

Sarah Frick (Adviser: Deborah Fletcher)

“Pirate & Chill: The Effect of Netflix on Illegal Streaming”

Abstract: This paper explores how intent to pirate movies is affected by the removal of movie content from the subscription streaming service, Netflix. On October 1st, 2015, Epix switched all of
its movie content from Netflix to Hulu representing an overall decrease in the legal streaming
availability of these movies. This switch was due to a contract issue and thus exogenous on
the individual movie level. Using a difference-in-difference approach, I compare the
difference in piracy searches before and after the Epix switch occurred for Epix movies (the
treatment group) and movies that remained on Netflix (the control group). Intent to pirate is
measured using the number of google searches for “Watch movie title free online”. I find that
the removal of Epix movies from Netflix results in a 20-22% increase in intent to pirate those
movies, compared to movies that remained on Netflix, all else equal. This study contributes
to the understanding of the substitution between legal streaming services and movie piracy
and makes important implications for content owners deciding what platform to offer their
movie on.

Christopher Granquist (Adviser: Charles Moul)

“Multimarket Contact On Tacit Collusion: Evidence From The Airline Industry”

Abstract: This paper examines the effect of multimarket contact on tacit collusion using empirical
evidence from the airline industry. We replicate a model of multimarket contact applied
to price and apply it to price dispersion, and address potential endogeneity in our measure
of multimarket contact through fixed effects. We find three early results: (i) Increased
concentration in the U.S. airline industry has reduced the effect of multimarket contact on
prices, but the effect remains relatively strong and positive; (ii) The effect of multimarket
contact on price dispersion may have either a positive or negative effect based on specification;
(iii) First-stage regression results suggest that the percentage of gates owned by a carrier
or their low-cost competition at the destination airport on a route is a strong instrumental
variable for future extension.

Julia Mozdzen (Adviser: Mike Curme)

“Pick Your Poison: Are Drinking Consequences Related to Alcohol Beverage-Type?”

Abstract: Every year, over 1,500 college students die as a result of their alcohol consumption.
Prior literature has focused on the decision to drink and found that the quantity of beverages
consumed is directly linked to alcohol-related consequences. While college binge drinking rates
have been declining, concern over alcohol use has been increasing. This suggests quantity may
not be the only determinant of alcohol-related consequences, but perhaps, alcohol beverage type
is also a factor. In this paper, we examine an individual’s costs and benefits of consuming an
additional beverage, looking at which students are most likely to engage in high risk drinking
behavior and the degree to which quantity influences consequences. We then focus on beverage
type, looking at the correlates of a liquor preference and the relationship between regular or peak
hard alcohol and negative outcomes. We find significant associations between the consumption
of hard alcohol and consequences for both regular drinking occasions and on the peak drinking
occasion.

Haley Mull (Adviser: Melissa Thomasson)

“Break A Leg- Just Not In Alabama: Analyzing The Timing Of Medicaid’s Adoption And State Variation In Medicaid Eligibility”

Abstract: Medicaid is a joint federal-state health insurance program targeting the low-income population. The program covers nearly 20% of all Americans and accounted for $592 billion in 2017. Medicaid was originally introduced in 1965 as an optional program without mandatory financial eligibility minimums. By 1982, all 50 states had established a program but at vastly different levels of eligibility. In this paper, I analyze the factors that impacted a state’s adoption of Medicaid and the factors affecting eligibility generosity for pregnant women, infants, children, and other adults. I find that politics and health environment factors were insignificant in explaining the adoption of Medicaid. However, with respect to eligibility, these same health environment and political factors become significant in explaining differential levels of eligibility generosity. Moreover, higher income states had an increased probability of having a Medicaid program in the following year and are more generous in their eligibility limits. In both models, demographic factors provide conflicting evidence to support the basic ideas of the Median Voter Theorem. Regression findings for adoption and eligibility generosity are generally robust across models. Finally, future work might examine eligibility generosity for other populations benefiting from Medicaid or apply the models to a variety of optional benefits.

Thuc Doan Nguyen (Adviser: Michael Lipsitz)

“Non-Compete Agreements and Compensation Structure in the
Technology Industry”

Abstract: Nearly half of technical professionals in the United States have been asked to sign non-compete agreements (NCAs). These agreements are legal covenants preventing employees from entering into markets or professions in direct competition with their former employer. Previous studies on NCA have only emphasized how its enforceability affects the size of compensation bundles as a whole. Given that technology firms are known for rewarding stock ownership besides bonus and base salary, I seek to assess the effect of varying degrees of NCA’s enforceability at different states on representation of each pay component in the overall pay structure in the tech industry. Analyzing detailed compensation data from a public Information Technology website, I found evidence that not only do total compensation and base salary reduce, but the percentage of compensation paid as bonus also decreases as a result of being subject to a stricter NCA enforcement regime. This paper also offers a way of looking at the two types of mobility constraints from a substitutes versus complements relationship and asserts that NCAs prevent workers from earning maximum wage as would happen in a competitive market.

Sarina Sangal (Adviser: Jing Li)

“Assessing the Economic Impact of Hong Kong’s 1997 Handover: A Synthetic
Control Approach”

Abstract: On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred from the hands of the British government back to its previous owner, China. Current research about the economic impact of this transition is disputed, with some arguing that the 1997 Handover had no effect on Hong Kong’s economy and others finding a negative impact. This study serves to provide an analysis of the economic impact of Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty by employing the synthetic control method to create a counterfactual. The counterfactual was comprised of a weighted average of Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Using adjusted GDP per capita as the key outcome variable, find that the actual Hong Kong economy performed 5% worse than predicted by the synthetic control, indicating that the 1997 Handover had a negative effect on Hong Kong’s economy.

Sarah Siegel (Adviser: Gregory Niemesh)

“The Health Income Gradient In The Early 20th Century”

Abstract: The positive relationship between socioeconomic status and health has been observed and established across many fields. This paper has two goals: (1) find a relationship between health and income through child mortality rates in the 1900 and 1910 census and (2) check the omitted variable bias of the mother’s childhood socioeconomic status. Previous research has established the impact of different father’s occupations on the child mortality index and find a relationship between occupations that earn more and a lower child mortality rate. I construct a panel dataset that links mother’s back to their childhood household and tests whether there is an omitted variable bias with the mother’s childhood household socioeconomic status. I find that a one standard deviation increase in husband’s wealth is associated with a decrease in the child mortality rate of 2.03 deaths per 1000 children ever born and the mother’s childhood socioeconomic status plays a role in the child mortality rate with a one standard deviation increase their income is associated with a decrease in the child mortality rate of 1.36 deaths per 1000 children ever born. In general, I find that the omission of mother’s childhood socioeconomic status creates a slight omitted variable bias. Further work will try to improve the matching procedure to find enough sisters in the sample to run household fixed effects and improve the identification strategy.

Elizabeth Springer (Adviser: Prosper Raynold)

The Impact of Religious Intensity on Terrorism

Abstract: In this paper, we conduct an empirical analysis of the impact of religious intensity on terrorism through using panel data and a two-way fixed effects model. The data used in this study comes from the World Values Survey and the Global Terrorism Database from 38 different countries. We find that an increase in religious intensity leads to an increase in terrorist incidents. We also look at the difference between developing and developed countries and find that there is a positive effect of an increase in religious intensity on terrorism for developing countries, but no effects for developed countries. These parsed out effects are most likely due to the conditions of each type of country and that developed countries have conditions that Most of the effects found in this paper are significant, both statistically and in magnitude. Religious intensity, therefore, has an important role to play in the success of a terrorist organization.