Capstone Courses and Projects

Research on Higher Education

High Schools and the Development of First-Generation College Students
In today’s economy, a college degree is more important than ever, yet fewer than half of high school students will go on to postsecondary education. A group at a particular disadvantage is first-generation students – those whose parents did not go to college. Without important firsthand background knowledge, information and motivation from their parents, these students are even less likely to reach college than their peers. Only about one quarter of first-generation students enroll in college. While much previous research has been devoted to factors affecting college attainment and the steps students must take to achieve it, little attention has been given to those variables that schools can control. This study analyzes aspects of guidance and counseling at the school level to determine to what extent the provision of these services affects the likelihood that first-generation students will enroll in college.

Research on Property Taxation

House Values, Property Taxes and Municipal Spending: How New Jersey Spent the Housing Boom
This study examines the relationship between the rise in housing prices from 1998-2004 and changes in spending by New Jersey municipalities. The remarkable increase in property wealth over this time period presents a great opportunity to study what local communities might do with "unexpected" revenue.

Research on Prisoners

The Political and Fiscal Consequences of the Enumeration of Prisoners by the U.S. Census Bureau
The United States decennial census enumerates prisoners and other institutionalized persons in the facilities in which they are housed, as opposed to the communities where they regularly reside. The past several decades have seen dramatic growth in the U.S. prison population, with new facilities mainly in rural communities, while most prisoners come from urban areas. Advocates have called for a change in enumeration policy. The Capstone team sought to estimate the extent to which the current method of enumeration has a significant and meaningful impact on political representation and funding allocations. First, using census and corrections data from New York and Florida, the team calculated the relative representation of counties in the state legislature under different enumeration rules. Then, they analyzed the effects on fiscal transfers from federal and state to local governments, and the impact on funding distributions for one federal grant program that uses census data to determine allocations.

Research on Infrastructure Investment

Public Investment in Infrastructure and its Effect on State Economic Growth in Brazil
This research project investigates public investment in infrastructure and its effect on state level economic growth in Brazil. Brazil is currently undergoing a national plan to pave highways. This project examines whether the highway stock, both paved and unpaved, contribute to economic development. The paper utilizes state level annual data from the years 1985 to 2000.

Research on Children's Health Insurance

SCHIP-ing Away at School Absenteeism: Does the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Improve Children’s Attendance in School?
As a response to the growing number of uninsured children in the United States, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1997 as Title XXI of the Social Security Act. The legislation provides states with matching federal funds greater than those available under Medicaid, but at capped annual rates. The stated objective of the SCHIP program is to provide meaningful health insurance coverage for at least half of the uninsured children and adolescents through age eighteen in families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private health insurance. In order to gauge the effectiveness of SCHIP in contributing to national improvements in overall child health, this study looks at the percent average daily school attendance to determine whether, controlling for a variety of factors, improved access to health care has enabled children to participate in normal activities, including attending school. In addition, this study further examines states’ variations in SCHIP benefits and structure and the resulting impact on program effectiveness.

Research on Immigrants

Understanding Variation in Medicaid Enrollment Among Eligible Immigrants
This study examines the influence of state policies and political ideology on Medicaid enrollment among low-income legal immigrants. The welfare reform legislation of 1996 changed welfare policy in the U.S. and had a profound impact on legal immigrants’ access to Medicaid benefits. Welfare reform denied access to federal Medicaid benefits to immigrants who arrived in the United States after August 22, 1996 during their first five years in the U.S. While restricting access at the federal level, welfare reform allowed states to establish substitute policies to maintain Medicaid eligibility for this vulnerable group. Using CPS data from 1998 and 1999, this project utilizes multivariate regression analysis to examine the impact of the availability and generosity of a state’s substitute Medicaid programs and the political ideology of a state’s citizens on Medicaid enrollment among legal immigrants.