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Best Tepper Senior Honors Thesis in Economics

The award for the Best Tepper Honors Thesis in Economics was established in the 2007-2008 AY. The Tepper Senior Honors Program in Economics provides qualified students with the opportunity to engage in original research during their senior year at Carnegie Mellon. For many, this process of intellectual inquiry and knowledge creation is the highlight and culmination of their undergraduate academic experience.


  • "Diversity Considerations in School Choice: Developing Fair and Effective Mechanisms" written by Karthik Nagarajan (Advisor: Prof. Isa Hafalir)

Controlled school choice policies aim to provide families a choice as to which school their child will attend while maintaining diversity in schools. These policies are often implemented in the form of minimum and maximum quotas on student types (that can be based on race, ethnicity or socioeconomic factors). When these quotas are interpreted as hard bounds, standard fairness and non-wastefulness properties are compromised, imposing a cost on student welfare. By interpreting the minimum quota as a flexible guideline (a ”soft” bound), I employ a mixed interpretation of these quotas to formulate a modified version of the student-optimal deferred acceptance algorithm that guarantees fairness. Furthermore, I show that both this and a purely soft interpretation of the diversity bounds can be used to formulate effective mechanisms that ensure fairness, even in settings with notionally hard bounds.


  • "The Determinants of Self-Employment in Mexico and Household Transitions Between 2002 and 2005" written by Yaqi Niu (Advisor: Prof. Rebecca Lessem)

The study of self-employment has been an intriguing factor in many developing countries. However, not many empirical studies analyze self-employment on a household level. This research focuses on Mexico in 2002 and 2005 and investigates the determinants of self-employment, transitions between self-employment and the labor market, and these transitions across asset levels all from the household perspective. The results show that high school education, asset level, previous self-employment experience and household size are important determinants of self-employment. The transition between self-employment and labor market is not homogenous across asset levels, because higher asset level increases chances of self-employment. Lastly, self-employment status decreases income, suggesting that a self-employed household will earn higher income if it were to enter the labor market.


  • Not awarded


  • Finding Nash Equilibria in Asymmetric Auctions with Resale: Numerical and Analytical Developments" written by Richard Katzwer (Advisor: Prof. Isa Hafalir)


  • “Do Special and Charter Schools Help Attainment in Public Schools?” written by André Tartar (Advisor: Prof. Maria Ferreyra)


  • "Anti-Foreign Sentiment in the California Gold Rush" written by Robert L. Jefferson (Advisor: Prof. Karen Clay)

In this paper, I provide a quantitative and historical analysis of the "California thesis" of anti-foreign legislation (Sandmeyer 1991; Gyory 2000). In other words, were the conditions during the Gold Rush a significant precursor to federal policies starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882?  While there are competing theories for the development of anti-immigrant legislation, most notably the political influence of unions and a racist social and political climate, I suggest that these are not immediately contrary to the Gold Rush argument.

The Gold Rush provides a context for mass migration into California that otherwise would not have occurred to such a strong degree. That influx of immigrants, especially Chinese, provided a significant labor base for the Transcontinental Railroad, which became a primary vector for Chinese migration from California to the rest of the United States. By examining voting patterns in light of conditions in California during the Gold Rush compared to the national patterns over subsequent decades, I attempt to shed light on the similarities between the California and national experiences.

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