Francesco Storm ’20 wins economics thesis award

The Department of Economics recognizes Storm for writing the best economics thesis of the year.

The Martha and Spencer Love School of Business’ Department of Economics honored Francesco Storm ’20 with the 2020 Best Economics Thesis Award.

Headshot of Francesco Storm
Francesco Storm ’20

Storm, mentored by Assistant Professor of Economics Brandon Sheridan, was selected to receive the award out of 20 seniors majoring in economics who completed undergraduate research theses this year.

Caitlin Wynn, mentored by Martha and Spencer Love Professor Steve DeLoach, was recognized with honorable mention for her work.

The senior thesis serves as the culmination of the students’ required comprehensive evaluation in economics. Students work individually with a faculty mentor to research further topics and ideas that were discussed in class. Both students presented their theses at the 2020 Eastern Economic Association Conference in Boston.

In “Capital Concentration and Economic Growth: Interacting Income Inequality with Capital Accumulation,” Storm, an economics and political science double major, revisits Nobel prize-winning economist Simon Kuznets’s hypothesis that income inequality rises in countries during early stages of development before falling once a country has reached a developed stage.

Recent research has cast doubt on the stability of this relationship and Storm’s research suggests that the simple Kuznets Curve may, indeed, be too simplistic. He finds evidence that more unequal countries tend to use capital less efficiently. This finding has potential policy implications for developing countries that are shifting from labor-intensive to capital-intensive economies.

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Of Storm, Sheridan writes, “Franky has simply been the ideal student. He came to me early with a topic in mind and we spent significant time refining the scope of that idea. He was always open-minded about my suggestions, asked great questions to clarify his understanding of both the empirical and theoretical aspects of what he wanted to do, and demonstrated a strong, independent work ethic. Writing code is a particularly challenging aspect of carrying out empirical work, and Franky showed great resolve in ensuring his work was accurate and meaningful. He then did a masterful job of pulling all of these components together and writing his thesis with clarity and eloquence.”

In addition, Storm’s thesis was selected for publication in Issues in Political Economy, the leading undergraduate research journal in economics. The journal is co-edited by undergraduates at Elon University and the University of Mary Washington, and is indexed in Cabell’s Directory of Publishing Opportunities in Economics and Finance.

headshot of Caitlin Wynn
Caitlin Wynn ’20

In “Contraceptive Access and Female Labor Supply: Evidence from Indonesia,” Wynn, an economics and political science double major, connects access to contraception to female labor market supply with data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey. Using price fluctuations for contraceptives at the community level, Wynn finds when prices for oral contraceptives increase there is a decrease in the likelihood of female self-employment. She concludes that broader access to contraceptives in developing countries can have a positive economic impact on low-income female enterprise.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Caitlin over the past two semesters,” DeLoach said. “She has worked as hard as anyone I have mentored in the past 20 years, delving deep into the weeds of a massive and complex data set. Even more than her keen intellect, I think what makes her a superb scholar is the humility she brings to the research process. The result is thoughtful, carefully done work and precise, reflective writing.”