The Economics Department encourages and supports student research in many ways consistent with student interest and resource availability, and we have a strong record of graduating students with high scholarly accomplishments.

Students may explore opportunities to initiate semester-long research projects for credit as independent studies with faculty apart from curriculum-based research, and many take advantage of grant-funded programs for summer research worldwide.

Students take ownership of their research projects that in many cases result in presentations at professional conferences or published works. We consider such research experiences to be central to the learning process of our student-scholars.

Spotlight on Research Returns to Relationships: Social Capital and Household Welfare in India

What started as a EJ Kelley's senior honors economics thesis became a collaborative project between him and Prof. Jaya Jha that was later published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Social Sciences. Their research explores the economic returns to social relationships in rural India. 

Independent Research

There are multiple ways in which Economics students can conduct independent research under the supervision of the faculty. The department offers writing-intensive courses that typically require a major research term paper in lieu of the final exam. Such courses include:

  • Economic Development & Political Economy
  • Economics of Migration
  • Economics of Multinational Firms
  • Health Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Money & the Financial System
  • Urban Economics

Students also gain individual research experience in Computational Economics, Econometrics and Statistics courses. In addition to research-based coursework, our capstone experience, the Senior Session, is designed to allow seniors to conduct group investigations under faculty supervision. Recent study examples include:

  • Investigation of the Tax System Design for Peru
  • Effective Altruism, the Greek Debt Crisis & the Euro
  • Presidential Politics & Economics
  • Corporate Boards & Firm Value

Alternative approaches to the capstone course also have given students opportunities to conduct supervised research in their diverse fields of interest. Recent titles include:

  • Hospital Ownership and Medicare Spending
  • Explaining State Variation in Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections
  • Salary Discrimination in the NHL: Foreign Players and Racial Minorities
  • Star Power and Box Office Revenue: US Films in France
  • Oil and Manufacturing: The Effect of Oil Prices on Production Manufacturing
  • How Does R&D Expenditure Affect Trade Flow? An Empirical Analysis of the R&D-Export Linkage
  • The Influence of Copyright Enforcement Regimes on English Book Prices, 1770-1779
  • How does Military Expenditure Affect Economic Growth among Latin American Countries?
  • The Effect of Wars on Life Expectancy

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Research with Professors

Our faculty members have wide ranging research interests and active research agendas, and the department encourages collaborative research between our faculty and students. Such collaborative ventures in the recent past have led to student presentations at professional conferences such as the Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium, and the annual meetings of the Eastern Economic Association which resulted in our student paper receiving the Best Paper award. Faculty-student research has resulted in publications in professional journals including the Journal of Transport and Health, International Journal of Conflict and Violence, Issues in Political Economy, Undergraduate Economic Review and Columbia University’s Journal of Politics & Society. Our Honors program allows qualified students to pursue a year-long research project under the supervision of a faculty committee. Examples of current and recent Honors theses include:

  • A Theoretical Analysis of Behavior with Reciprocity and Fairness Concerns
  • Racial Differences in Bargaining Behavior: An Ultimatum Game Analysis
  • Immigration and the Labor Market for Physicians in the U.S.
  • The Roles of Government and Culture in Entrepreneurial Activity

Among other areas, current faculty-student collaborative research focuses on Schumpeterian growth, internal migration in China, Agent-Based Computational Modeling and on the determinants of the survival of firms over long cycles. Our Economics Seminar Series provides an excellent forum for interested students to see and participate in research presentations by faculty members invited from other institutions each fall and spring. Economics Department faculty members also hold workshops at the Economics Brown Bag Lunch series, in which students can participate with faculty co-authors.

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Summer Research

Our faculty members advise and support student summer projects for which multiple paid opportunities exist on a competitive basis. For example, we have advised our recent Kemp Scholars on a range of topics including:

  • The Effect of Peers' Behavior on Academic and Social Outcomes at Davidson College
  • Social Isolation and Social Media Site PatientsLikeMe
  • The Effect of Health Care Provider Market Power on Price Setting and Costs: A study of the German Model and Implications for U.S. Healthcare Costs
  • Jumpstarting the Motor City: Urban Revitalization in Detroit
  • Gender Differences in Migration Decisions in Germany

The grant-funded Davidson Research Initiative (DRI) allows first-year, sophomore, and junior students to design research projects, engage with faculty mentors for guidance and collaboration, and present and publish their findings. Recent DRI projects have included: “KitKats and PayDays: The Relationship Between Scarcity and Temptation Spending;” “Romantic-Period Book Prices in Great Britain;” and “Knowledge Spillovers and Entrepreneurial Activity: An Agent-Based Approach to Modelling Schumpeterian Growth for Developing Countries.” In addition to the many DRI-supported opportunities, a variety of offices on campus offer grants or are affiliated with external grant programs.

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