Student Economics Research Examines Cryptocurrency, Drug Abuse, and Economic Freedom

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 20, 2018) — Three Kennesaw State University undergraduate students attended the recent Georgia Association of Economics and Finance Annual Conference, where they shared the results of research projects on topics ranging from cryptocurrency markets and the measurement of economic freedom to the impact of macroeconomic performance on illicit drug use.

Held April 12-13 at Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, Ga, the 46th annual GAEF conference brought together faculty from university economics and finance programs across the state to explore ways to enhance economics education at universities and at the K-12 level. Current GAEF President Zeynep Kelani, Lecturer of Economics at the Michael J. Coles College of Business, organized the event.

Tim Mathews and Zeynep Kelani
Tim Mathews and Zeynep Kelani at the Georgia Association of Economics and Finance Annual Conference

Under Kelani’s leadership, the GAEF invited undergraduate students to their annual conference for the first time ever. Students from Kennesaw State, Morehouse College, and Georgia College and State University participated in a poster session where they presented research projects on a wide variety of economics topics.

“It was a tremendous success and a great academic and social experience for undergraduate students,” Kelani said.

The three Kennesaw State students – Sean Balliew, Dave Hagemann, and Robbie Skinner – are undergraduate research fellows with Coles College’s Bagwell Center for the Study of Markets and Economic Opportunity, formed in 2017 to study the relationship between free markets, individual choice, and economic outcomes. Research fellows receive stipends to conduct research on the impact of market institutions on society.

“A mission of the Bagwell Center is to facilitate an interdisciplinary study of the importance of markets and economic institutions in regards to resource allocation,” said Dr. Timothy Mathews, Economics Professor and Director of the Bagwell Center. “Paramount to this is becoming aware of the relation between economic freedom and the functioning of a market economy.”

The research fellows’ projects addressed this theme. Finance major Sean Balliew studied the significant correlation that exists between a country’s gross domestic product and the economic freedom of its residents. Meanwhile, computer science major Dave Hagemann presented on the fluctuations in cryptocurrency prices, and economics major Robbie Skinner’s project examined how the financial crisis of 2008 led to an overall decrease in illicit drug use, but an increase among certain populations.

“By studying less traditional markets – for things such as cryptocurrency and narcotics – Dave and Robbie have been able to examine how economic forces and incentives influence behavior even in realms that are unregulated or illegal,” Mathews said. “These are powerful lessons in how markets work.”

Sean Balliew GAEF Annual Conference
Bagwell Center Research Fellow Sean Balliew Presenting his Research on Measurements of Economic Freedom

In addition to bringing the research fellows to the conference, Mathews served as the event’s keynote speaker, discussing the immediate positive impact that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had on the tax burden for most filers while acknowledging the challenges of predicting the long-term effects.

While the undergraduate research poster sessions mark the first official collaboration between the GAEF and the Bagwell Center, the two organizations will continue working together in the future.

“I have brought GAEF and the Bagwell Center together to be lifelong partners,” Kelani said, “which will benefit the Department of Economics, Finance, and Quantitative Analysis’s teaching, research, and other activities.”

Other contributions EFQA faculty made to the GAEF Annual Conference include:

  • Kelani presenting research co-authored with Accounting Professor Sandria S. Stephenson on effective strategies to enhance student engagement in accounting and economics courses,

  • Economics Professor Murat Doral presenting his paper on student self-paced learning in online classes,

  • Finance Professor Dr. Amine Khayati discussing research conducted with Kennesaw State Accounting Professor Dr. Don Ariail on the perceived relationship between ethical leadership and political skills,

  • And Visiting Economics Professor Dr. James Bourdeau presenting his paper on whether luck plays into the outcomes of all-pay auctions

- Patrick Harbin