Capstone Courses and Projects

(Research)

The Impact of State­Level Administrative Procedures on SNAP Participation Rates Among Eligible Individuals
Nearly one in eight individuals is enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. However, only one in three eligible individuals actually receives benefits. Participation rates vary widely across states, ranging from 46 percent in Wyoming to 94 percent in Maine. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows state agencies flexibility in deciding the administrative procedures they use to enroll beneficiaries in the program. Examples of procedures include finger imaging and facetoface interview requirements. Prior research suggests that certain state level procedures may unduly burden individuals who have the greatest need for food assistance. The Capstone team used individuallevel data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and statelevel policies from 2001, 2004, and 2008 to analyze the impact of state administrative procedures on SNAP participation.

(Research)

Quality of Primary Outpatient Care for Medicaid Patients: Does a Practice's Share of Medicaid Patients Matter?
The recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expands eligibility to Medicaid for millions of near­ poor indi­viduals. Given this expansion, policymak­ers need to understand the nature of the disparities that exist in the quality of care Medicaid beneficiaries receive as com­pared to their privately insured counter­parts. Previous research has demonstrated that as the percentage of Medicaid patients in a physician's practice increas­es, health services and the quality of care received by Medicare beneficiaries and the privately insured decrease. Yet, the literature offers very little information about the impact of a practice's proportion of Medicaid patients on the quality of care received by Medicaid patients themselves. The Capstone team analyzed how the proportion of Medicaid revenue received by a physician's practice influences the disparity in quality of care between Medicaid and privately insured patients. The study assessed whether disparities in the quality of care between Medicaid and privately insured patients occur within or between practices, and whether such disparities are themselves associated with the proportion of practice revenue from Medicaid.

(Research)

Revisiting Components of Renewable Portfolio Standards and Their Impact on State Renewable Energy Generation
Renewable energy is an increasingly important source of US electricity due to concerns about global climate change, energy security, and fossil fuel price volatility. This study focuses on the extent to which state regulatory policies impact state renewable energy generation. The Capstone team's research estimates the impact of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) on a state's overall renewable ener­gy generation. Unlike previous research on the effects of RPS, this study attempts to operationalize a number of elements that comprise RPS, such as annual required share of renewable energy and the threat of penalty, in order to assess whether or not these variations have a significant effect on individual states' production of renewable energy.

(Research)

State Sentencing Policies and Recidivism Among Drug Offenders Released in 1994
The New York State Rockefeller Drug Law of 1973 became the model for harsh sen­tencing policies for nearly all states in the country. Although the “war on drugs” and the “war on crime” sought to address vio­lent criminal activity, the changes in policy and the emphasis on mandatory prison sentences have mostly resulted in the mass imprisonment of low­risk, nonviolent drug offenders who are often young Black and Latino men. The drastic increase in the number of people sentenced to prison for drug­related offenses has caused prison over­crowding, ballooning state expenses, and an influx of drug offenders returning to communities. While existing research on recidivism has focused on individual characteristics of offenders, very little is known about the state or neighborhood­level context to which offenders return. For this study the Capstone team examined the impact of state­level policy factors, such as indeterminate and determinate sentencing, on recidivism among drug offenders released in 1994.

(Research)

The Use of School­Wide Bonus Incentives on Educational Outcomes
In most public school systems, teacher pay is based solely on level of education and years of teaching experience. Unlike professionals in other fields where per­formance is a factor in determining com­pensation, teachers have little economic incentive to strive for results in their work. During the 2007­2008 academic year, the New York City Department of Education introduced a pilot program whereby teach­ers at high­needs schools would receive bonuses if their schools reached targeted educational outcomes, as measured by test scores and other factors. This pro­gram differs from other incentive pro­grams in that it rewards whole schools for raising overall student achievement, and not individual teachers for the progress that their particular students make. The Capstone team analyzed the impact of the program to determine what effect, if any, school­wide merit pay has on student per­formance and school quality.