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Research Honors Projects 2018-19

Unworthy and Unprotected: Disabled People in Civil Wars Since 1945
Brickelle Bro

Disabled people are always disproportionately affected by war. They are the first to feel the shocks of resource diversion or deficiency, they may be easier targets for violent militant groups that indiscriminately attack civilians, they may even be explicitly targeted by one of the warring groups. There are few studies that document this phenomenon in specific conflicts, but do not apply the information to other conflicts or other disability issues. Though Human Rights groups call to attention the impact war has on disabled people, there has been no effort made to understand the phenomenon, merely an acknowledgement that it is happening. In my research I aim to rectify this gap in our knowledge by creating a disability in conflict data set. I have created conceptual categories in which to classify different types of killings and will perform an analysis to determine patterns and identify potential risk factors. This research will provide both a conceptual understanding of the problem and pave the way for practical solutions to be enacted.

Naked Short Sales: Have regulatory efforts been effective ten years later?
Russell Clarida

To this day, short sales present a multi-faceted problem for regulators in the securities industry. On one hand, selling a security short is a necessary part of orderly market structure, preventing instruments from becoming overvalued; on the other, this practice is open to manipulation, and regulators, investors, and industry leaders alike fear instances where security values rapidly descend, "well below the price level that would have resulted from the normal price discovery process."(SEC, July 15 08) In the context of incremental progress in both the regulatory landscape and academia in the past ten years, there has yet to be a comprehensive test of the effectiveness of the new suite of short sale regulations in turbulent market times, in part because they hadn't materialized in earnest since 2008. Put simply, this paper rests on a premise that short selling becomes a particularly hot topic in the context of sudden equity collapses, and the past ten years have seen historically low levels of volatility, hampering quality insight into the robustness of the new regulatory regime. In light of recent significant repricing in equity markets in January and October of 2018, especially in the tech sector, there now exists an opportunity for comparison from financials in 2008 to tech in 2018.

This paper extends previous work by Welborn et al in, "Informed short selling, fails-to-deliver, and abnormal returns," by acknowledging that failures are highly correlated with expensive stock borrow costs in the underlying security, caused by broker-dealers looking to make fees by lending "special" or hard-to-borrow stock to institutional investors. This paper uses similar data to Welborn et al by employing the publicly available bi-monthly data on failures as well as proprietary data on stock borrowing costs from Wharton Research Data Services securities lending information product, Markit. The first hypothesis posits that the market downturns in tech stocks of 2018, in January and October, exhibited similar characteristics as those of financials in 2008: namely hard-to-borrow stocks routinely failed, implying regulation has not fixed the problem and loopholes still exist, ceteris paribus. The second posits that a predictive model built and trained on data from the market crash of 2008 should perform equally as well on the market downtown of October 2018 in terms of its ability to classify binary stock performance at market close based on covariates from trailing 5-day performance. This implies that failures do contain information about future price movement and remain a continued regulatory issue. The paper will conclude by assessing the implication of the quantitative findings for future regulatory action on short sales.

Warfare LTE: Patterns of Organized Violence in the Age of Wireless Communication
Carly Eckstrom

Does development of communication technology in the form of cellular phone service result in reductions or increases of organized violence? This question, first explored in a case study of Iraq by Jacob N. Shapiro and Nils B. Weidmann, lends itself to two hypothetical mechanisms (Shapiro et al. 2015). First, access to mobile communications eases the coordination of violent actors and results in an increase of violence; and second, it reduces violence by providing governments with a minimally costly conduit for information from both voluntary reporting by the population as well as signals intelligence from the violent actors themselves. Using open source, geocoded cell data from, as well as the UCDP Georeferenced Event Dataset, I will identify global patterns of increases and reductions in violence following mobile technology development at the grid square and country levels. I will further explore the interactions of these patterns and their mechanisms with factors such as third-party involvement, development, government capacity, and population density.

Political Determinants of Higher Education Access
Christopher Garza Estrada

Over the years, educational attainment throughout the United States has generally increased overall. Yet in comparison to other nations, the United States has started to fall behind in college completion and citizens of lower socioeconomic classes have had a harder time reaching higher education. The volatile system of higher education appropriations has made it difficult for these citizens to afford college. There are some studies that work to explain how economic changes have an effect on educational attainment and this system of appropriations. Through my use of a state level dataset, I aim to explain how various political determinants affect attainment on a state-by-state basis. I also aim to answer the question of what role partisan control of state governments has in determining higher education access. In order to do this, I will be completing an observational study with correlational analysis. I will use this analysis to look at the country on a larger scale, and from there determine a few states to look at on a much closer level. This research aims to identify the effects of political determinants and explain these effects by examining various policies that have been enacted.

The Social and Economic Determinants of the Gender Voting Gap
Emily Katz

Since the 1980s, scholars have become increasingly interested in a political phenomenon known as the “gender voting gap,” or the difference between the percentage of men and the percentage of women voting for a particular party or candidate. While this phenomenon has become relatively well studied in the United States, the gender voting gap has also experienced interesting global trends that have not been fully addressed in the scholarship. Scholars disagree on which variables or variable combinations drive men and women to vote differently, and many of their studies focus primarily on Western countries. This paper aims to find the most salient factors driving the gender voting gap globally, using basic regressions to analyze a dataset of 51 countries. These countries encompass varying levels of economic and democratic development, and the data include information from the World Bank, the World Values Survey, and the Comparative Study on Electoral Systems.

When Candidates Go Viral: The Role of Social Media in Taiwanese Elections
Yvonne Lee

In the election this past November, voters in Taiwan overwhelmingly elected the Kuomintang party officials, with the Democratic Progressive Party losing a stronghold in Kaohsiung, a city that they have held power in for more than two decades. Chinese Communist Party-controlled newspapers have argued that this demonstrates the desire for reunification, as Taiwanese officials accuse the CCP of meddling in the election by engaging in disinformation campaigns to sway the electorate. This thesis will examine posts on the Professional Technology Temple (PTT), Taiwan’s largest online bulletin board system to better understand the role of social media in the dissemination of Chinese propaganda. This thesis will examine two case studies of candidates who have become popular on the internet (Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je in 2014 and Kaohsiung mayor-elect, Han Kuo-yu in 2018) to better understand the forces that make a candidate go viral in Taiwan.

Felon Re-Enfranchisement: A State-by-State Expansion
Marissa Lopez

Which states expanded or contracted felon voting rights in the past decade and what were the political, social and historical circumstances when the state altered those rights? The high incarceration rate and strict felon disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact young African American men and may be linked to policies passed during the Civil War Reconstruction Era (Behrens et al. 2004). The impact of felon disenfranchisement caused decisive shifts in at least seven congressional elections and one presidential election since the year 2000, indicating that felon disenfranchisement and corresponding re-enfranchisement activities significantly impact American politics (Uggen et al. 2007). Using an original dataset and scoring system of felon disenfranchisement, I examine the magnitude and direction of each state’s policies as well as outline the circumstances when policies pass, fail, or stagnate. Using univariate correlation, I examine circumstances in each state, including: racial demographics, poverty statistics, incarceration rates and state legislative party control, among others.

“Lesser of Two Evils”: Perceived Traits in U.S. Presidential Candidates and Voter Turnout
Meredith Manda

Despite national “get out the vote efforts,” turnout in American elections is low both historically and in comparison to other developed democracies around the world. Perhaps in an age of low voter turnout, a possible explanation is that some Americans are willing to forgo their right to vote, or choose not to vote, due to distrust in candidates.

To analyze the predictive nature of this relationship, I ran a correlational analysis on voter turnout using the cross-checked American National Election Studies Times Series dataset from 2016 (datasets from 2008 and 2012 were not cross-checked).

According to preliminary regression analysis, lower perceptions of candidate trustworthiness in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 elections suggest a lower likelihood of turning out to vote.

The Moderating Influence of California’s Top-Two Primary
Jacob Randolph

Despite frequent debate on the merits of California's recently instituted top-two primary system, very little academic literature exists on its effectiveness in achieving its intended goal of electing more moderate candidates and reducing the polarization of legislative bodies. This thesis aims to provide a much-needed analysis of its impact on electoral politics in California through two main avenues: the success of ideologically moderate candidates in achieving a spot on the general election ballot and the success of ideologically moderate candidates in co-partisan general election races—a unique outcome created by the top-two system. This research will be the first to utilize a measurement of California State Senate, State Assembly, and congressional candidate ideological scores, as provided by Professor Adam Bonica’s Data on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections, to analyze the connection between a candidate’s moderateness in their respective race and their electoral success for all races in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 election cycles. In addition, this thesis will explore the electoral outcome of the co-partisan race, its presence in more partisan districts, and its impact on the behavior of voters from the opposite party who are confronted with the opportunity to cross partisan lines. A better understanding of these unique races will yield an illustration of potential factors hindering the effectiveness of the system. Most importantly, the findings of this research will ultimately serve as a meaningful contribution to academic discourse on primary systems and depict the long-term outlook of the system in moderating legislators and subsequently reducing polarization.

Year of the Feminist? Analysis of Feminist Issues and the 2018 Election
Melody Rodriguez

The media has labeled 2018 to be “The Year of the Woman” based upon the number of women who filed for candidacy in the U.S. House primaries and won U.S. Congressional seats. However, these aggregate numbers fail to take into account partisan disparities and whether the issues for which women have marched over the past two years featured prominently in 2018 campaigns. This study will identify which issues unite feminists using American National Election Studies (ANES) data and the Women's March Inc. Unity Principles then assess the relevance of these issues in the 2012-2018 elections via textual analysis of the campaign websites of candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives. During the poster presentation, I will present preliminary findings regarding who identifies as a feminist and how feminists and non-feminists view the issues of reproductive rights and immigrant rights.

International Cooperation in the Effort Against Organized Crime: Mexico and Columbia
Julian Watrous

In Colombia and Mexico, drug trafficking has fueled violent conflict between organized crime groups, insurgent groups funded by drug trafficking, and the state. In 2000, the U.S. launched Plan Colombia to combat organized crime and to restore Colombia’s internal security situation. The U.S. launched a similar program in Mexico, the Mérida Initiative, with the same goal of enhancing security and defeating organized criminal groups. Despite the programs’ similarities, intergovernmental cooperation with the United States was far greater in Colombia than in Mexico—in the former, the U.S. designed Colombia’s security strategy and had an active military presence. In Mexico, the U.S. played little more than an auxiliary role. Why did the Colombian government invite so much more American involvement in its internal security situation than did the Mexican government? More broadly, what influences a government’s willingness to seek foreign intervention for the sake of its security? The framework I use to answer these questions relies on the idea of securitization and an analysis of the political costs of international cooperation. I show that in Colombia, the issues of organized crime were conceived across the political spectrum as threatening to national security—surrendering sovereignty to the United States was less politically costly to Colombian leaders because there was a political consensus behind treating organized crime as existential. In Mexico, the same consensus never formed behind the idea of treating organized crime as a national security threat. As a result, surrendering any sovereignty to the United States became highly costly. I show how, in Mexico, domestic politics regarding the legitimacy and necessity of the drug war restrained international cooperation with the United States.