Capstone Courses and Projects

Research on the Earned Income Tax Credit

State of Awareness: The Effects of State Characteristics on Awareness and Uptake of the Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the nation’s largest income-support program for poor and low-income families. Advocates of the EITC note that it assists low-income families by reducing their tax burdens, supplementing their wages, and helping to transition them into the workforce. In 2004 the program helped 4.9 million people, including 2.7 million children, move out of poverty. Since 1986, 17 states plus the District of Columbia have established tax credits - a large number of them implemented in the late 1990s. In order for low-income workers to qualify for the EITC, they must file an income tax return. Few studies have examined in-depth the relationship between state EITCs and EITC awareness, and no study has examined how state supportiveness affects EITC awareness and uptake. This study moves beyond previous research to examine the effects of state EITC policies and state generosity on individual awareness and uptake of the EITC. The Capstone team’s findings support previous research on individual characteristics—those most disadvantaged in terms of income, language, and work history are the least likely to be aware of and use the EITC. However, the team unexpectedly found that people living in more supportive states are less likely to be aware of and use the EITC. The team explored the dimensions and implications of this finding.

Research on Estimating the Impact of Foreign Aid on Education in Developing Countries

A Cross-Country Panel Study
Over the past few years, various studies have alternately demonstrated and refuted the ability of foreign aid to stimulate economic growth in developing countries, following the conventional wisdom that identifies growth as the major factor of poverty reduction. Nonetheless, these studies have not explored the effect of foreign aid on social outcomes such as health, education and gender parity. In this project, we used cross-country panel data covering 55 developing countries over 6 five-year periods between 1970 and1999 to estimate the impact of foreign aid on gross primary school enrollment and gender parity in education. Controlling for economic factors, demographic characteristics, institutional quality, and cultural attitudes towards women, the preliminary results of both a pooled cross-sectional and a panel OLS regression suggest a small but statistically significant effect of aid on the educational outcomes of interest.

Research on Local School Finance

Estimating the Cost of an Adequate Education in Pennsylvania
With the advent of No Child Left Behind in 2001, states are now required to develop a clear set of performance standards that will result in an “adequate” education for students. These standards have not been accompanied by additional funding to reach these goals, which has led to school finance litigation in the courts. In response to recent litigation, various methods of calculating the cost of an adequate education have been developed. In this study, the Capstone team used Duncombe’s cost-function approach to develop an index to estimate the cost of providing Pennsylvania’s K-12 students with an appropriate education. The team estimated the effects of performance standards, district efficiency, resource prices, student characteristics and district characteristics on per pupil expenditure in each Pennsylvania school district. Model results were used to calculate a cost index, which reflects how much more or less than an average district others should spend to provide a basic, adequate education. Results are consistent with previous research, revealing variations between individual school districts, with pronounced variation when indices are aggregated to the locality type level. Furthermore, the team found that increased spending is required for urban areas, where the proportion of students who require additional resources is higher.

Research on Medicaid Satisfaction

Satisfaction and Care-Seeking: Children in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
This study, utilizing a nationally representative sample of children who receive healthcare services from Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), seeks to determine whether parents of children covered by Medicaid managed care plans are less satisfied with the quality of services provided to their children than are parents with children in traditional fee-for-service Medicaid plans. In addition, the study examines a subset of children that did not receive an office-based physician visit in a twelve-month period and considers the various factors associated with care-seeking. Patient-reported satisfaction with healthcare is increasingly used as a proxy for the quality of care provided. Further, research indicates that satisfied patients are more likely to comply with recommended courses of treatment and may subsequently experience positive health outcomes. Given the barriers associated with the managed care delivery model, is there a difference between satisfaction of parents whose children receive care through the managed care model and those whose children are covered by the traditional fee-for-service model; and, within the Medicaid/SCHIP population, which children are most at risk for not receiving care?

Research on Neighborhood Health/Environmental Justice

Space, Place and Race: New York City Neighborhoods and Childhood Asthma
Children in urban neighborhoods confront daily hazards that put their respiratory health at risk, and asthma is the foremost reason for pediatric hospitalizations in New York City. Much of the current asthma research and policy initiatives focus on individual level analyses of health status, such as cigarette smoking and obesity. he Capstone team examined the effects of neighborhood characteristics on childhood asthma hospitalization rates. Using 2000 Census data, the Capstone team explored seven different domains relating to asthma prevalence: housing stock, socioeconomic status, outdoor environmental exposure, child care, health care, social disorder and race. Findings from the multivariate analysis indicate that housing stock is significantly associated with disparities in childhood asthma hospitalization rates. The Capstone team recommends that policymakers promote equitable home ownership initiatives and allocate resources for the maintenance of deteriorating public housing developments that currently expose residents to harmful indoor allergens.