Female student focuses in class

Senior Theses 2014

Janet Gannon (Adviser: Prof. Deborah Fletcher)

“Today’s Business Cycle and Tomorrow’s Human Capital: How do unemployment rates impact college enrollment?”

Abstract: This paper uses data from the Current Populations Survey for 1995-2010 to study the countercyclical nature of college enrollment in the United States. By expanding on past studies to include observations for 18-50 year olds without a college degree, I can more carefully explore the effects of the business cycle on college enrollment by age group. I find that overall undergraduate enrollment is countercyclical for all ages. Additionally, when unemployment rates increase, individuals 18-24 and 35-45 are most drawn to full-time enrollment to build personal capital; however, those 46 and older appear to view part-time enrollment as a complement to employment as economic conditions worsen.


Adam Motley (Adviser: Prof. John Bowblis)

“Shoot to Thrill, but Not to Win: An analysis of NBA player performance and pay”

Abstract: As the professional sports industry grows, so does interest in the player valuation techniques used to monitor how players’ contribution to their respective teams compare to salaries. This study improves on previous methods by using a multi-step approach applied to the NBA using data from the 2008/9 to the 2011/12 seasons. First, performance metrics are analyzed to empirically determine how a player’s performance contributes to a win, and subsequently the additional wins a player provides to his team. Second, we determine how these additional wins translate into salary. Finally, actual player salaries are compared to predicted salaries based on a player’s contribution to additional wins. We find that a player’s impact on team wins is dependent largely on having a well-balanced game, and conversely that one-dimensional “pure shooters” tend to be much less effective at positively influencing game outcomes. We find that the players estimated to be overpaid by our analysis are highly paid players who impact their team’s productivity very little, if at all; and those players that are underpaid are rising talent and well-balanced rotation players.


Paul Niekamp (Adviser: Prof. William Even)

“Bakken out of Education to Toil in Oil”

Abstract: Human capital theory suggests that individuals will alter educational attainment decisions when the return to education changes. Using data from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI), we analyze the impact of the North Dakota (ND) oil boom on high school graduation rates and postgraduation plans. We reveal that the boom increased the wages and employment of lower skilled workers relative to higher skilled workers. Adolescents have responded by decreasing college enrollment rates, decreasing military enrollment rates, and entering the workforce. They have not, however, responded by dropping out of high school.


Kelsey Skvoretz (Adviser; Prof. Melissa Thomasson)

“Weighing in on the Effectiveness of State Laws on Childhood Obesity: Fat Chance!”

Abstract: Widespread obesity continues to have increasingly detrimental effects, starting as early as childhood. One solution to preventing obese children from becoming obese adults and thereby lessening many health, social, financial, and professional consequences is to impose stipulations on school nutrition and physical education (P.E.). Using a difference-in-difference approach, I examine the effects that various state laws on vending machines, competitive foods, and physical activity have on a child’s physique. I find that laws on à la carte snacks and entrées, vending machine snacks, and advertising of foods within schools are correlated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI)3, yet no evidence supports the effectiveness of other laws such as those mandating the frequency of P.E. or the licensure requirements of food service staff.


Michael Sotak (Adviser: Prof. Charles Moul)

“Ally or Antagonist? Banking and Antebellum American Agriculture”

Abstract: Despite the economic advantages of incorporating a new innovation into a society, there is often a delay between the invention and adoption of the technology. This is especially evident with agricultural innovations in the 1800s. One of the possible delays to an innovation’s adoption is credit availability. This paper will look at antebellum farming and bank data in the Midwest to explain the value that banks and financial depth provide to the adoption of a new technology. I will show that banks allow cash-constrained farmers to adopt the new technology, speeding its incorporation into our society. My results will also show a downside to the presence of banks, namely that increased financial leverage magnifies losses from a negative economic shock.


Benjamin Taylor (Adviser: Prof. Jing Li)

“Do Fewer Guns Lead to Less Crime? Evidence from Australia”

Abstract: The 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) in Australia introduced strict gun control laws and facilitated the buyback of over 650,000 firearms. While several re searchers have studied the effect of the NFA on firearm deaths, none has looked at its impact on crime. In this paper we use seeming unrelated regressions of various crime rates across the eight Australian states to study the impacts of the NFA. Our results indicate that the NFA decreased armed robbery rates, but had no significant effects on attempted murder, sexual assault, or unarmed robbery rates.