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Oct. 29, 2021Print | PDF
The Department of Economics in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics is pleased to announce the Peter Sinclair Undergraduate Research Prize winners for three terms — Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Winter 2021.
The prize is named in honour of Peter Sinclair, a long-time faculty member and former undergraduate program director in the Economics department who passed away in May 2015.
The winner for Spring 2020 was Jacob Eby for his paper “Internet Availability and Productivity in the Age of COVID-19”. The report examined how home internet speed affected work productivity. Using multiple datasets, Eby created models at the individual and regional level, and his findings showed that hours lost were lower in regions with faster internet speeds. Eby graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics earlier this year. After graduating, Eby joined the Analysis Group in Toronto as a research professional.
The runner-up for the prize was Saloni Sharma for her paper, “Evaluating Supply Elasticity of the GTA and Vancouver’s Housing Markets.” Sharma’s work involved analyzing housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver where she found housing prices are generally well above the costs of building a new house and that housing starts do not seem to respond very quickly to changes in prices. These two factors mean demand changes will feed through to prices faster than expected. Today, Sharma is an analyst at Optimus SBR in Toronto.
Honourable Mentions up for the Spring 2020 prize were:
Zidane Gajadhar, “The Effect of the Expansion of Medicaid on Unemployment”
Stefano Ferrari, “Education Level and Smoking”
In addition to the Peter Sinclair Undergraduate Research Prize, the department also awards a Short Writing Prize each term. For Spring 2020, the prize was awarded to Anita Gogia for her paper, “Solving the Empty Container Problem: Analyzing Current and Future Technology.”
While it will take years for a complete understanding of the pandemic’s effects on global economies, much research is already being done on how it has affected women in the workplace. For his Fall 2020 winning paper, “Gender and Unemployment” Herman Wagnleithner began looking at how factors including work experience, education levels, and age affected individuals searching for jobs. When his research didn’t show any apparent differences, Wagnleithner added gender to his research.
“I created a probability model to predict whether people would be employed or unemployed in the data set I was using given their age, their education level, and gender,” Wagnleithner said.
Wagnleithner was a member of the Lazaridis Bank of Canada Governor’s Challenge team looking at labour markets and their effect on the economy as a whole. While working on the team, the conversation of how women continued to have a more difficult time re-entering the labour force came up repeatedly. That motivated Wagnleithner to create two distinct models, one that would predict whether someone was employed or unemployed and the second one to predict the likelihood of women choosing to leave the labour force or their ability to re-enter the labor force after maternity leave.
“If you had two people who were the same other than one is a woman and one is a man and were out of work, when they go to re-enter the labour force, the woman is 4.5% less likely to be able to re-enter as successfully as the man,” said Wagnleithner.
He hopes that businesses and government leaders can look at this and other research to make policy changes to create better opportunities for women.
“In Canada, we pride ourselves on our equality. But there’s always room for improvement,” Wagnleithner said.
Wagnleithner is currently in the Master of Arts in Business Economics (MABE) program and hopes to work for the Bank of Canada as a researcher after graduating.
The runner-up for Fall 2020 was Jessica Sullivan for her paper “Surviving Social Media: An Analysis of Social Media Use on Canadian Political Decisions.” Sullivan analyzed the values of Canadian individuals’ political, social media use in relation to their understanding of their impact, vote, and overall confidence in the Canadian government and systems.
The Economics Department Short Paper Prize winner was Melanie Panditharatne.
The most recent winner of the Peter Sinclair Undergraduate Research Prize is Prerna Chaudhri for her paper “The Marginal Effect of the Great Recession on the Wages of Immigrants in Canada.” In her research, Chaudhri looked into the impact of the 2007-2009 recession on the wages of immigrants in Canada. Chaudhri said that there are gaps between the wages of immigrants and non-immigrants, even though they both might have the same educational qualifications and skills. Those gaps widen when you add gender into the equation.
“Considering we are living in a more developed and accepting world, these gaps should be eliminated by now. Through my research we can identify these areas and make policies, rules, and regulations around it to minimize these gaps in future,” Chaudhri said.
She chose Laurier because of the community and our experiential learning opportunities. After graduating, she plans to work in her field of study and then wants to pursue a master’s in Economics.
The runner-up was Jared Wilke for his paper “Analyzing Electric Vehicle Incentives Impact on EV Adoption in Canada,” which looked at the impact of government rebates and incentives on the adoption of electric vehicles.
The winner of the Winter 2021 Economics Department Short Paper Prize was Colin Moran. His paper, “Is Housing Tax Policy Affecting the Toronto Housing Market,” is a public economics literature review of how Toronto’s housing tax policy might be affecting its housing market. The paper also discussed potential considerations for policymakers who wish to reform housing tax policy to increase social welfare.
Moran finished his studies at the end of the Spring 2021 term and has recently started as an investment analyst at the boutique firm Timelo Investment Management.
“I chose Laurier for my post-secondary education because of its exceptional student community and highly-regarded co-op program. I was able to meet some of my best friends at Laurier while also getting real-world work experience to start my career on the right foot. I’m very happy with my decision to be a Golden Hawk,” Moran said.
The Spring 2021 Peter Sinclair Undergraduate Research Prize submissions are currently being adjudicated and we’ll announce those winners soon.
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