AREC Graduate Students Showcase Research at Fall Forum

November 16, 2018

Five graduate students of the Department of Agricultural and Research Economics presented their research at the annual fall semester research poster session on Nov. 14, 2018. 

Several faculty members and students attended the event to learn more about current research that graduate students are working on.

“This event is very important because students get the chance to learn from their cohorts and give really good suggestions,” graduate student and planner of the session Tianqi Gan said. “Also faculty members who attend give really helpful comments on the projects, which can help the presenters polish their research even further.”

Second-year graduate student Abigail Durden presented an Analysis of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, specifically in relation to the nutrition program’s effect on the academic performance of elementary school children in Texas. Durden has found the result that participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program decreased third and fifth school passing rates, possibly from a reduction in class time.

Another student, Sam Williamson, shared his research Land Value Effects of Large Lot Development Restrictions. Williamson examined a zoning policy passed in Maryland in 2012 restricting large subdivision development in rural parts of the state. He hypothesized that the zoning policy had different effects on rural land values, depending on the "subdivision potential" (i.e. the number of times a piece of land can be subdivided) of each piece of land before the policy was implemented. He has discovered a decrease in land values for parcels that could have been developed into medium-size subdivisions before the policy, while he finds an increase for parcels that could have been developed into major subdivisions, suggesting that very large pieces of rural land may be appreciating in value after the zoning policy due to their agricultural potential rather than their lost development potential.

Lauren Beatty (pictured here with professor Lars Olson) studied how people make choices about portfolios of vehicles in a paper called Consumer Valuation of Fuel Economy: Evidence from a California Survey. A lot of models of consumer choices of vehicles either assume that consumers are choosing only one vehicle or that their choice of a vehicle isn't dependent upon the attributes of vehicles they already own, Beatty explained.

“That struck me as a bad assumption because it is pretty reasonable to assume that a household will, for example, pick a minivan for their first car and then a very fuel efficient car for their second one,” Beatty explained. She is continuing to modify her procedure in order to get conclusive results.

Graduate students Aldo Gutierrez and Mehrab Bin Bakhtiar focused their research on larger social issues in specific places of the world. Bakhtiar’s research, Agency in Household Decision-Making: Lab-in-the-field Experiments in Nigeria, explored women’s agency in rural parts of Nigeria.

“We take female agency in household decision-making for granted in most of the developed world; however, in many low-income contexts, lack of female empowerment within the household is pervasive" Bakhtiar explained. “I use experimental methods to measure agency of married women in household decision-making in Kebbi, Nigeria, among ultra-poor households. I find that approximately 70% of women defer household decision-making to their spouse, while around 20% of males do the same. Receiving a cash transfer for a period of time, however, leads to significant gains in women exercising agency by deferring fewer decisions to their spouses."

Gutierrez’s poster was titled Crazy Rich Consumers: Is our desire for social status greater than our concern for other people’s well-being? A few essential questions that he is attempting to answer are: Do people choose to protect the environment when they have to sacrifice something in order to do so? Is there a trade-off between social status and protection of the environment? Gutierrez has yet to conduct experiments; however, he has a research plan prepared.

Overall, the poster session was highly informative and beneficial for the ongoing research of the AREC graduate students. The department would like to thank the UMD Graduate Student Government for the financial support for the event.