Capstone Courses and Projects
Housing and Birth Outcomes: How Neighborhood Housing Quality and Affordability Affect Birth Outcomes in New York City
In the United States, birth outcomes vary widely among different socioeconomic groups. Some of these differences have been linked to the levels of stress experienced by pregnant women, which can seriously compromise the health of newborns. However, few researchers have studied how stress related to housing issues, such as the affordability, quality, and safety of the home, is linked to poor birth outcomes. Using longitudinal data on housing quality, the Capstone team explored the connection between housing and birth outcomes in New York City – a place where low-income African American mothers experience significantly higher rates of low birth weight and preterm birth than other mothers, and where low-income families pay an extremely high proportion of income on rent, despite living in antiquated, dilapidated buildings. The team’s research examines whether improvements in housing affordability and quality are associated with improved birth outcomes.
Sex Education and the Role of Peer Groups
Research shows that abstinence only education, although it may briefly delay intercourse in specific contexts, may create barriers to health knowledge, while comprehensive sex education does not lead to an overall increase in sexual behavior. But little attention has been given to the influence of peers’ abstinence pledges on teenagers’ likelihood of taking such pledges. The Capstone team’s research explores how one's peers influence an individual's decision to sign an abstinence pledge and to delay sexual activity. The team also explored longer-term effects on health and the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
A Decade of Voter Identification Laws: The Effect of Stricter Requirements on Turnout
Since 2000, about half of the states have strengthened voter identification requirements, ostensibly to prevent election fraud. Critics assert that these laws fail to increase the integrity of elections and depress turnout by creating a barrier to voting that discriminates against low-income, less educated, elderly and minority Americans. To estimate the causal effect of identification requirements on turnout, the team used a research design that takes advantage of policy variation across states and time, and incorporates the most recent national election data from 2010. Findings will inform the inconclusive literature on the subject and the ongoing public debate.
High School Choice in New York City
In recent years, school districts across the country have increasingly turned to school choice as a central part of education reform efforts. The New York City Department of Education created the high school match program in 2004 in order to provide students and their families more choice in high school admissions. Through this program, rather than simply being assigned to their zoned high schools, the Department of Education uses an algorithm (similar to that used by medical residency programs) to match students to schools based upon their respective rankings. This study examines the extent to which New York City public school students are ranking and attending high schools outside of their district or zone, thus taking advantage of the new high school match program. The team identified student, school, and neighborhood characteristics associated with the likelihood of ranking, and attending, non-zone or non-district schools.
Do Food Stamp Asset Limits Hinder Household Saving?
Many public benefits programs exclude people with more-than-minimal asset wealth in order to prevent individuals with substantial savings from relying on the government. In recent years, researchers and policymakers have grown concerned that asset limits may also discourage low-income households from saving. The Capstone team's research measures the effect of asset limits on savings behavior by exploiting state-level changes in program rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, as well as policy variables compiled from various sources, the team examined how changes to such asset restrictions have impacted liquid assets, vehicle wealth, and net worth among both food-stamp participants and low-income families.