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May 26, 2023 | In the News

Congratulations to the 2023 Senior Essay Prize Nominees and Winners!

2023 Senior Essay Prize Nominees & Winners

Each year, 30-50 students write a senior essay in economics. This year, these essays spanned a wide array of topics across all fields of economics including consumption inequality within households, linkages between venture capital and public markets, police brutality and 911 calls, childcare needs on parent’s labor supply, and much more.

The top essays are nominated for prizes by the student’s advisor and a second reader from the department. A committee of Economics faculty members read and select the winning essays, and the prizes are awarded on commencement day during the students’ respective college ceremonies.

The prizes are as follows:

  • The Charles Heber Dickerman Memorial Prize: the best departmental essay(s).
  • The Ronald Meltzer/Cornelia Awdziewicz Economic Award: runner-up(s) for the Dickerman Prize.
  • The Ellington Prize: the best departmental essay in the field of finance.

This year, twelve seniors were nominated for their essays: Raphael Berz, Tilden Chao, Aaron Dickstein, Noah Friedlander, Rosa Kleinman, Sarah Moon, Bruno Moscarini, Michael Ning, Ayumi Sudo, Sasha Thomas, Crystal Wang, and Justin Ye.

The Dickerman Prize for the best departmental essay goes to Bruno Moscarini (“Skewed Uninsurable Income Risk in Incomplete Market Economies”), supervised by Eduardo Davila, and Sarah Moon (“Partial Identification of Individual-Level Parameters Using Aggregate Data in a Nonparametric Binary Outcome Model”), supervised by Ed Vytlacil.

The Meltzer/Awdziewicz Prize goes to Rosa Kleinman (“Transaction Costs and the Take-up of Social Safety Net Programs: Evidence from the Combined Application Project”), supervised by Cormac O’Dea.

The Ellington Prize for the best essay in finance goes to Aaron Dickstein (“The Impact of Economic Conditions on Decision-Making: Evidence from Retail Stock Trading”), supervised by Nicholas Barberis. Aaron also received one of Yale College’s top prizes on Class Day: He was awarded the Arthur Twining Hadley Prize, which goes to the graduating senior majoring in the social sciences who ranks highest in scholarship. Read more about the Yale College prizes here.

In addition to essays, the Department of Economics awarded two additional prizes to graduating seniors majoring in economics: the Laun Prize for an outstanding course record in all courses taken at Yale College goes to Justin Ye, and the Massee Prize for an outstanding record in economics courses goes to Ran Wang.

Congratulations to all of these seniors for their exceptional accomplishments!

The essays for all the nominees and winners are posted below:

Raphael BerzRaphael Berz

The evaluation of the Nutrition North Canada subsidy and implications in imperfectly competitive and remote communities
(Advisor: Steven Berry)

Food insecurity due to the high cost of food is a serious issue facing Canada’s remote northern communities. The federal government is addressing the crises through the Nutrition North Canada (NNC), which provides indirect subsidies for northern grocery retailers. This paper examines the pass-through of the NNC subsidies to consumers and examines variations across items, communities, and market structures.

Tilden ChaoTilden Chao

When the Dust Settles: How Cleaning Up America's Most Toxic Sites Affects Renters and Homeowners
(Advisor: Robert Mendelsohn)

This paper contributes to the economics literature on housing markets, toxic pollution, and environmental justice, with a specific focus on how remediating industrial pollution affects renters. The paper explores how Superfund cleanups make property owners better off but low-income renters worse off. Chao examines actual outcomes after cleanup using a panel data set for census tracts surrounding Superfund sites from 2010 to 2021. The findings suggest that Superfund may make low-income renters temporarily worse off and some property owners durably better off.

Aaron DicksteinAaron Dickstein

The Impact of Economic Conditions on Decision-Making: Evidence from Retail Stock Trading
(Advisor: Nicholas Barberis)

This paper investigates the relationship between economic conditions, specifically portfolio and market performance, and the strength of three behavioral biases in retail stock trading: return extrapolation, lottery stock buying, and attention-grabbing stock buying. Our findings indicate that return extrapolation and lottery stock preferences are more pronounced after high portfolio returns, while the buying of attention-grabbing stocks is more pronounced following poor returns. We consider various psychological explanations for these results, such as attention, overconfidence, social networks, and prospect theory, and argue that time-varying attention offers a natural explanation for all three findings. Our results contribute to the broader debate on whether people make more suboptimal decisions in good or poor economic states, providing evidence that the relationship between economic conditions and biases is complex and nuanced.

Noah FriedlanderNoah Friedlander

Regressive As Well As Unequal?
(Advisor: John Eric Humphries)

In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which introduced a new formula governing property taxes that remains unusual relative to that of other states. While it has been shown that this formula introduced significant horizontal inequality, where properties with the same market value pay different effective tax rates, little is known about the presence or drivers of vertical inequality, where properties of different value pay different effective rates on average. This paper uses 93 million parcel-level observations for residential properties and employs a hedonic pricing model to comprehensively document the distributional incidence of the California property tax from 2009 to 2021. The findings suggest substantial regressive vertical inequality in the California property tax under Proposition 13.

Rosa KleinmanRosa Kleinman

Transaction Costs and the Take-up of Social Safety Net Programs: Evidence from the Combined Application Project
(Advisor: Cormac O’Dea)

This essay studies the effect of transaction costs on the take-up and targeting of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Exploiting the staggered adoption of the Combined Application Project (CAP), a joint-filing procedure that simplifies the SNAP application for recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), this research finds that transaction costs reduce take-up and worsen the targeting of SNAP. The essay develops a model of SNAP enrollment to explore the mechanisms behind this result.

Sarah MoonSarah Moon

Partial Identification of Individual-Level Parameters Using Aggregate Data in a Nonparametric Binary Outcome Model
(Advisor: Edward Vytlacil)

The relationship between variables at the individual level can be different from the relationship between those same variables aggregated over individuals. This problem of aggregation becomes especially relevant when the researcher wants to answer a question about individual observations, but only has access to data that has been aggregated. This paper develops a methodology to partially identify individual-level parameters from aggregated data when the individual-level outcome of interest is binary, while imposing as few restrictions on the underlying data generating process as possible.

Bruno MoscariniBruno Moscarini

Skewed Uninsurable Income Risk in Incomplete Market Economies
(Advisor: Eduardo Davila)

Analysis of administrative data from the US, Germany, Sweden, and France by Guvenen et al. (2021) reveals that the distribution of idiosyncratic log earnings changes features significant negative and procyclical skewness. What effect does this negative skewness have on savings choices, wealth inequality, and the equilibrium real interest rate, and how do these effects change with procyclical skewness over the business cycle? This paper considers these questions in a Huggett (1993) endowment economy with borrowing constraints. Findings suggest that in partial equilibrium, negative skewness increases the incentive to save for high income levels, which drives up wealth inequality. In general equilibrium, negative skewness lowers the interest rate.

Michael NingMichael Ning

Linkages between Venture Capital and Public Markets, and Venture Capital Cyclicality
(Advisor: Song Ma)

In seeking to untangle the causes of cyclicality in VC investing, this paper investigates the relationship between VC and public markets. Using a database of all venture capital investments from 1980-2022, this paper analyzes aggregate VC behavior (total investments, number of investments, investment size) to understand how they co-move with lagged public markets indicators (valuation multiples, stock market performance, IPO numbers), segmented by characteristics about the investments (industry, stage), and the investor (experience, capital under management). Findings suggest that lagged valuation multiples and the IPO market predict investor behavior, but not industry stock market returns more broadly. Second, higher valuation multiples lead to relatively more early-stage investing, while stronger IPO markets lead to relatively more later-stage investing. Finally, more experienced and well-capitalized investors are more responsive to changing public market signals.

Ayumi SudoAyumi Sudo

Effect of childcare needs on parents labor supply: Evidence from remote schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic
(Advisor: Joseph Altonji)

How do childcare needs affect parents’ labor supply? This paper exploits variation in the share of in-person schooling (as opposed to remote schooling) among elementary and secondary school students during the Covid-19 pandemic to analyze how parents of school-age children respond to changes in childcare needs caused by different school learning modes. Based on the American Community Survey and school learning modes data from the Covid- 19 School Data Hub, this paper finds that mothers (but not fathers) respond to decreases in in-person schooling by dropping out of the labor force. The analysis in this paper sheds light on a salient causal mechanism behind changes in parents’ labor supply during the pandemic and has important implications for childcare and schooling policies in relation to the labor supply of parents.

Sasha ThomasSasha Thomas

Consumption Inequality Within Households: An Analysis on Budget Allocations and Resource Shares in the UK

This thesis attempts to analyze whether intrahousehold consumption inequality exists in UK households. The paper manipulates household-level Engel curves to understand spousal resource shares and budget allocations using novel individual expenditure data from 2001-2017.

Crystal WangCrystal Wang

Police Brutality and 911 Calls
(Advisor: Zachary Bleemer)

High-profile cases of police brutality have significant effects on public perceptions of police, but their impact on residents’ demand for policing services is less clear. This paper uses a novel metric to measure residents’ willingness to call police: the ratio of resident-initiated 911 calls to automatic alarm alerts. By using a differences-in-discontinuities approach on calls for service data from 13 US cities, the study finds a significant reduction in calls after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, particularly for low-level nuisance calls. These results empirically demonstrate the cost-benefit tradeoffs that individuals make when calling the police and contribute to the growing literature on the negative impacts of police brutality on civilian trust.

Justin YeJustin Ye

Trust, Insurance, and Demand in Peer-to-Peer Platforms: Evidence From the Short-Term Rental Market

This paper examines how platform-wide buyer protection insurance affects the role of trust-building mechanisms in online, peer-to-peer markets. Using listing-level micro-data on Airbnb and Vrbo listings in New York City in the year 2022, this paper exploits the introduction of AirCover (a comprehensive booking protection policy) on Airbnb in May of 2022 to assess how platform-wide insurance may directly drive guest booking decisions as well as modulate the role of other trust-building mechanisms.