March 5, 2010
College of Wooster seniors AungMaw MyoLwin (left), John Hotchkiss (second from right), and Aneeb Sharif (right), were joined by Amyaz Moledina (second from left), assistant professor of economics, at the annual Eastern Economics Conference in Philadelphia last month.
WOOSTER, Ohio - College of Wooster seniors Aneeb Sharif, John Hotchkiss, and AungMaw MyoLwin recently returned from Philadelphia, where they presented their research at the annual Eastern Economics Conference.
"This is the most diverse group of students in terms of majors that we have ever taken to this conference," said Amyaz Moledina, associate professor of economics at Wooster. "Aneeb is a political science and economics double major; John is an international relations major with economics as his home department; and AungMaw is an economics and mathematics double major." In addition to Moledina, advisers for these students also came from a variety of departments, including Jen Roche in mathematics, Angela Bos in political science, and Barb Burnell in economics.
Sharif is interested in direct democracy. He was drawn to the topic because of the reality he faced growing up in Pakistan. Direct democracy occurs when citizens pass legislation collectively, while bypassing the legislature using a ballot initiative. Sharif's paper derives a theoretical model, which hypothesizes that direct democracy increases income inequality as it reduces the state's fiscal ability to provide services. His hypothesis, tested on a panel dataset of 50 states from 2000 to 2006, provides statistical support. "We should be cautious about targeting direct democracy as an institution," said Sharif. "Rather, we should focus on innovative legislative solutions, which can be enacted to counter the rise in inequality as a result of direct democracy."
Hotchkiss, who recently studied abroad in Chile, was also interested in income inequality, but he quickly began to explore the conditions under which rich and poor voters showed preferences for subsidies. In his presentation, he described his theoretical model, which accounted for the fact that rich and poor people have different preferences for food goods using an economic device called a Stone-Geary utility function. He used that model to show how preferences for food subsidies would change in the presence of inflation. Hotchkiss's political economy simulation manages to predict voting outcomes under different scenarios, but his empirical model failed to show statistical significance. "Such are the risks inherent in rigorous empirical research," said Hotchkiss. "Revisiting my theory with a larger, more complete data set could yield different results."
MyoLwin, who is from Burma, was interested in modeling the choices educated individuals make in repressed societies and the ultimate impact on economic growth. Developing the Exit-Voice-Loyalty framework into a game theoretic model, MyoLwin shows that, under certain circumstances, emigration can lead to increased human capital accumulation in a developing country through increased investment in education due to prospect of emigration as well as return migration. Return migration is often triggered by the government's reaction to the costs of "foot-voting" from the exiting citizens. "It is an ongoing debate as to whether emigration from the third world results in harmful
brain drain or beneficial brain gain in the home country," said MyoLwin. "My thesis should serve as a great theoretical contribution to this debate. It is also a very personal topic since I have left my home country."
Aside from making presentations, students had an opportunity to listen to economists like N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard Professor and former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers who spoke about factors to consider when formulating tax policies, in his presentation, titled "Spreading the Wealth Around: Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber."
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