Capstone Courses and Projects

(Research)

Agricultural Industrialization, Policy, and Crop Diversity in the U.S.: A Panel Data Analysis, 1978-2007
Farming practices in the United States have shifted dramatically over the past 30 years, trending toward increased use of factory farms and single crop production. Evidence has emerged that these types of input intensive agricultural methods come at steep environmental, health, and social costs that may not be offset by benefits. This study examined federal and state policies to assess their impact on farm ownership structure and crop diversity. In order to compare diversity trends across states from 1978 to 2007, the Capstone team composed various county level crop indices based on models suggested in existing literature. Using panel data constructed from the Census of Agriculture, the team then analyzed policy as a contributor to state agricultural landscapes, ranging from industrial monoculture to diverse cropping. This study focused on analyzing the effects of state and federal policies on crop diversity as a vehicle for understanding the role government policy plays in impacting sustainable agriculture.

(Research)

The Effect of Policy Interactions on Maternal Smoking Rates
While smoking remains a salient public health issue, maternal smoking is also a key reproductive health concern. Women who smoke are at a higher risk of infertility and complications during pregnancy. Despite what is known about the dangers of maternal smoking, it is still an issue for state health departments nationwide. Previous research has explored the elasticity and burden of cigarette taxation across demographic groups. However, it is unknown how cigarette taxation might actually interact with other public health efforts to generate a unique response with pregnant women. This study analyzed the interaction between changes in cigarette tax rates and health care utilization (prenatal care services) on smoking behaviors during pregnancy, among other policies of importance to maternal health.

(Research)

The Effect of State Support on Educational Attainment
Public higher education in the United States is of particular interest as state governments are forced to cut spending in the face of lower revenues during this currently unstable economic period. Higher education funding is not immune to these cuts, and universities will have to manage with less government funding. Additionally, tuition growth rates continue to outpace inflation. With student loan markets strained from the credit crisis, public universities will struggle with increasing tuition to minimize funding gaps, while keeping college affordable. The focus of this Capstone project was on the effects produced by variation in state support for higher education, both over time and among states. Through appropriations, states have been able to fund public higher education institutions, and the Capstone team examined the effects of changes in state higher education support on the rate of educational attainment at higher education institutions.

(Research)

The Impact of the School Tax Relief Exemption on School Spending in New York State
The Capstone team studied the impact of New York State's School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption on school district spending in New York State. STAR is a state funded property tax relief program that reduces property taxes for homeowners and indirectly decreases the cost of additional school spending. Anything that induces more school spending is a source of great concern, given that New York State has long had the highest local taxes and school expenditures of any state in the United States. While the theory suggests that the STAR exemption has led to increased education spending, it is worth noting that STAR's implementation in the early 2000's coincided with other changes in pension laws and state and federal educational standards. The Capstone team used data from the New York State Office of the Comptroller and the U.S. Census to analyze the impact of STAR on school education expenditures.

(Research)

Pennies from Heaven: Assessing the Impact of New York State's STAR Exemption on School District Property Taxation
New York State's School Tax Relief (STAR) program exempts a portion of homestead property values from school district property taxation. The inception of this program immediately preceded a period of increased school property tax levies and expenditures. Using a public choice theory framework, this applied research Capstone project attempted to determine whether STAR was a causal factor for school district tax increases. The extent to which individual level and regional differences influenced local variation in the tax price elasticity of demand was also examined.

(Research)

Measuring the Effect of the Generosity of Welfare Benefits on Maternal and Infant Health Among Low-Educated, Unmarried Women
Single mothers comprise the majority of adult welfare recipients in the United States, and policies and programs that affect the health of this population may affect their children's health. Yet, there is little empirical evidence of how, and the extent to which, welfare benefits impact maternal and infant health. This study aimed to fill this empirical gap. By creating a variable for the generosity of welfare, the Capstone team examined how the generosity "bundle" of welfare benefits across states affected maternal health (prenatal care utilization) and infant health (birth weight) among low educated, unmarried women from 1996-2004. The team employed an individual unit of observation and a difference-indifference model with a comparison group in a time series and cross-sectional analysis to measure the cumulative effects of various welfare policies on maternal and infant health.

(Research)

Refining Reinvestment: The Impact of the 1995 Community Reinvestment Act Enhancements on Minority-Owned Businesses
Refining Reinvestment: The Impact of the 1995 Community Reinvestment Act Enhancements on Minority Owned Businesses munity. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA) encouraged financial institutions to meet the particular needs of minority borrowers formerly affected by redlining and other pernicious practices. CRA was modified in 1995 to improve financial institutions' compliance with CRA regulations. Previous studies focused on CRA's role in improving homeownership opportunities among minorities, with little research dedicated to the Act's role in improving credit access for small businesses. This study analyzed the impact of increased CRA monitoring on the growth of minority owned small businesses nationwide.