The Effects of India’s Gender Quota

Reviewed by Kunal Kanodia

Nadia Kale’s paper “The Effects of India’s Gender Quota in Local Government on Rates of Reporting Rapes of Women from Scheduled Castes and Tribes” makes an interesting connection between the increase in female representation in local government in India, and the reporting of sexual assault cases by women who belong to scheduled castes and tribes (traditionally backward and underprivileged castes under the caste system). Kale’s rationale behind this correlation is particularly interesting; she maintains that the impact of mandated increases in female representation may have been an increase in the rate of reporting of rapes for all women, this has not been the case for women who are particularly marginalized as members of scheduled castes and tribes.

Kale uses distinct methods to assess this startling discovery between what would seem a casual correlation between two otherwise unrelated variables. She uses evidence from studies that looked at factors motivating reporting of crimes against women, though this is hampered by the fact that the studies in question look at Washington D.C. and Kansas. This rests on the assumption that the factors that motivate a woman to report a case of sexual assault in the United States can be extrapolated to marginalized women in India.

That being said, the rest of Kale’s paper is extraordinary in its depth and succinctness of analysis of this important phenomenon in the country. Despite significant limitations in the kind of data that is available for violent crimes against women in the country, Kale uses excellent sources that validate her findings statistically. In particular, she finds herself further limited by the lack of detailed reporting of the reporting of sexual assault on women from scheduled castes and tribes in India. It nevertheless makes for a very well written and researched paper that I would highly recommend!

Read the full paper here!

The Effect of Adolescent Sleep Patterns on Future Adult Earnings

Reviewed by Katie Mimini

In the aptly named paper “The Effect of Adolescent Sleep Patterns on Future Adult Earnings,” Judy Hou seeks to contribute to the existing rich discussion on the negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation in the United States with an exploration of its long-term effects. Specifically, Hou aims to explore how different sleep habits held in adolescence can affect one’s earnings as an adult, either directly through altering one’s work capabilities or indirectly through influencing intermediate factors such as high school GPA.

To begin, Hou notes that there is a large body of evidence suggesting that sleep deprivation can cause a multitude of neurocognitive, mental, and somatic consequences. She also cites that “research has shown a positive short-term effect of healthy sleep patterns on wage and workplace productivity for adults” (Hou 2). In light of the body of research demonstrating the pejorative effects of sleep deprivation, Hou predicts that adolescents who get 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per day (the optimal amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation) will have higher earnings than both those who under-sleep and those who over-sleep.

Hou completes her study through an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, an extensive longitudinal survey of adolescents that questions the subjects every few years in Waves, with Wave I occurring at ages 12-17 and Wave IV at ages 24-32. The research analyzes men, women, and specifically women who work full time, “due to women’s earnings trajectories often being disrupted by children and familial responsibilities” (Hou 13). Some intermediate outcomes taken into account are high school GPA, graduation status, and adult sleep patterns.

Although there was some slight variation in the group of women because of aforementioned circumstances, the study found “no statistically significant effect of adolescent sleep hours optimality on adult income” in any case studied (Hou 17). In terms of why her study does not coincide with previous studies on this matter, Hou posits that it is difficult to measure effects on a large scale because of the very personal nature of sleep. In other words, since sleep deprivation will manifest itself differently in everyone, it might not be possible or sensible to make sweeping generalizations about how much sleep and entire group needs.

See the full paper here!

The Impact of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on National School Meal Participation Rates

Reviewed by Sam Henick

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 authorized $4.5 billion in new funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s core child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The HHFKA was made to achieve two key objectives: promote stricter nutritional requirements and improve school meal programs, which are a “critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.” The author focused on the second goal and argues that though the total number of meals served has decreased since the implementation of the HHFKA, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of free meals served during the same time period, a fact which is often overlooked.

The economic recession of 2009 coupled with a rise in food insecurity— the lack of consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living—made reform necessary, and the author argues that HHFKA has definitely had a positive impact on participation rates (and, therefore, access to a more nutritious diet) in low-income areas. Two steps that were successful in reaching this goal were direct certification, which allows individual schools and school districts with a high proportion of low-income students to implement universal free meals by using existing federal and state data to establish their poverty rates (as opposed to having to collect their own data from individual household meal applications, thus significantly reducing the paperwork burden on households, schools and school districts), and the implementation of an Afterschool Meal Program, which made it possible for children in low-income communities to receive additional food outside of the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs.

Schools that implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which became available for all schools and school districts nationwide in the 2014-2015 school year, can serve free breakfast and lunch to all students, as well as offer afterschool snack and supper to students participating in afterschool programs, regardless of a child’s individual financial status while students enrolled at CEP schools qualify automatically for two free meals a day, plus any additional meals provided through the Summer Food Service and Afterschool Meal Programs.

All of this is critical, as the author writes, because “improving children’s food security through school meals is a key means not only to improving their health and development, but also their school performance.” To address the criticism of HHFKA that the number of students participating in the National School Lunch Program has decreased, the author cites the Government Accountability Office to state that the decline primarily due to the departure of large numbers of “full price” students from the program. This decline masks the positive increase in free and reduced meals served through the National School Lunch Program, a trend that has occurred since 2000 and became more dramatic with the passage of the HHFKA.

The author concludes that the guarantee of free and reduced price breakfast and lunch at school is essential for eligible students’ health and well-being and that “increased participation rates in national school meal programs for at-risk students means that these children have access to food, which is a basic human need that should continue to be addressed in future child nutrition reauthorization acts.”

Though the author does not focus on the controversial and important debate on the nutrition of the meals, by focusing on the increase in free meals, she does present an important, though overlooked, perspective on the HHFKA.

See the full paper here!

Unravelling the US Stance on Depleted Uranium Weapons

Reviewed by Kevin Wu

In his paper “Unravelling the US Stance on Depleted Uranium Weapons,” William Henry Long contends that external pressures have led to the curtailing of depleted uranium (DU) weapons by the United States. Long begins with an explanation of the merits of DU weaponry, examining its effectiveness as a material for armor-piercing projectiles.  DU rounds further reduce the risk of the round exploding in the barrel of the turret, or remaining unexploded on the battlefield.  Long also reveals the relatively inexpensive price of DU due to the massive supply available.

Long then traces the history of the use of DU rounds as well as its impact on average citizens. Since 1990, nearly 20 nations including the US, UK, other NATO nations, China, France, Israel, and Russia are believed to possess DU weapons. The author examines critical opinions regarding the impact of DU weapons, nothing that within Iraq alone, the Radiation Protection Center has located 300 contaminated sites.  As per surveys done by the Iraqi government, the cancer rate has multiplied twenty fold pre to post-Gulf War, from forty out of 100,000 people to 800 out of 100,000 people.  In 2005, the cancer rate further multiplied to 1,600 out of 100,000.

After establishing the correlation between cancer incidence and the use of DU weaponry, the author describes issues with radioactive contamination as well as heavy metal toxicity.  Long conducts an analysis of a publication by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which concluded radiation from DU ammunition was far too small to be significant.  Even a study of veterans of the Gulf War with pieces of DU shrapnel embedded in them revealed that the amount of radiation the soldiers received was lower than that of the limit set for employees of nuclear facilities.  In contrast, DU is harmful due to its chemical toxicity.  The IAEA determined that DU levels in southern Iraq were large enough to pose a threat, causing renal failure, issues with the nervous system, heart failure, and genetic mutations.

As such, the United States military has been reluctant to acknowledge the effects of DU weaponry, as demonstrated by a recent Veterans Affairs study.  Long highlights the failures of this study, explaining that the limited sample size of 33 soldiers as well as the exclusion of veterans exposed to DU who expressed health problems made the study a poor representation of the actual impacts of DU.  The Department of the Army has compounded the health risks of DU by maintaining lax cleaning standards, approaching it as a radioactive threat instead of heavy metal threat.  The United States has further withheld the locations of DU rounds fired during the war, refusing to allow an outside survey and cleanup.

Long finally turns towards the legal and international response towards the use of DU.  The author explains that DU rounds can constitute an “indiscriminate attack,” which is banned under Article 51 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions.  Long also brings up the argument of the precautionary principle, that states ought to refrain from using weapons with uncertain effects on the environment and civilians.  The UN has also placed an increasing amount of pressure on nations utilizing DU weapons.  Long thoroughly traces pressures from both national forces within the press as well as international pressure from the European Parliament, indicating an increased likelihood that the United States would drop the use of DU weapons.

See the full paper here!

Droning Polio: The Impact of Covert Drone Strikes on Polio Immunization Rates in Pakistan

Reviewed by Kunal Kanodia

Naina Qayyum’s paper, Droning Polio: The Impact of Covert Drone Strikes on Polio Immunization Rates in Pakistan, makes an interesting connection between polio immunization rates in Pakistan and covert U.S. drone strikes. She makes the case that there is a direct connection between these factors in Pakistan, which she achieves by focusing on the effect that this has on the Taliban’s reaction to polio immunization drives in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Qayyum uses focused empirical longitudinal data to measure the impact that drone strikes have in Pakistan and in Afghanistan for children receiving vaccination.

Qayyum uses Afghanistan’s case to emphasize the effect that drone strikes have for polio immunization in Pakistan. She shows through a very convincing empirical data structure that an increase in the number of drone strikes reduces the probability of a child receiving polio vaccination by 0.442 percentage points in both these countries; however in Afghanistan there is a negative casual relationship between these two factors while in Pakistan is a direct positive correlation. Later on in her conclusive discussion of this finding, she attributes this difference to several factors. There are five provinces in the Afghan side of the FATA compared to two on the Pakistani side (which can cause more regional variation), and Pakistan has higher incidences of polio than Afghanistan (and polio tends to be transmitted from Pakistan to Afghanistan).

This study is handicapped by the lack of clear evidence on how many children in Afghanistan are actually deprived of polio vaccines and consequently how many of these children risk contracting the disease of polio because of this in the first place. Given the many factors that Qayyum has herself outlined regarding the differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the paper might have been more effective if she had solely focused on Pakistan, drawing references from the Afghan scenario when and where relevant.

Nevertheless, this is a nuanced paper that does a great job of synthesizing empirical quantitative data with qualitative analysis to give us an overview of how drone strikes are affecting the health of Pakistan’s future generations.

See the full paper here!

The Second Chechen War and its Implications for Democratic Peace Theory

Reviewed by Kaatje Greenberg

Are weak democracies naturally driven to cause war for domestic political gains? In “The Second Chechen War and its Implications for Democratic Peace Theory,” Columbia student Jacques Courbe examines whether the Second Chechen War fits Snyder and Mansfield’s model of weakly institutionalized semi-democracies that are especially likely to initiate war. He assesses the domestic and geopolitical influences in the war to conclude that a domestic politics focus evades the importance of geopolitics, which led Russia to exaggerate and even manufacture domestic causes in order to fulfill its goals in Chechnya.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 required the newly but incompletely democratic Russian Federation to redefine its borders. By 1994, Chechnya was the only one of 88 constituent republics of the Russian Federation that had not signed an agreement with the central government. The uncertain Russian-Chechen relations at the end of the First Chechen War in 1997 compounded this political conflict; while Russia saw Chechnya as a part of the Russian Federation, Chechnya desired independence.

Chechnya’s desires for independence provided the basis for Russia’s geopolitical concerns. Courbe agrees with Bruce Robert Ware, an expert on the North Caucasus, that Russia saw Chechnya as a hotspot of separatism and Islamic fundamentalism; Russia felt its security was threatened by this region, and acted in its own interests in invading the region. The geopolitical motivations for invasion were further complicated by NATO involvement in Kosovo and Western interest in establishing stable governments in the Caucasus.

However, the conflict cannot be boiled down entirely to geopolitics. The neo-Eurasianism prevalent in Russia at the time supported Russian influence over the former Soviet states of the Caucasus. It is in this context of ideological influence that the domestic causes of the war are to be interpreted.

Indeed, Courbe links Putin’s rise to power within Yeltsin’s government to his embodiment of neo-Eurasianism, evidencing the continued relevance of this conflict and its multi-faceted causes. Yeltsin, Putin, and Yeltsin’s other supporters manufactured domestic political causes and launched media campaigns to gain public support and construct a domestic politics narrative for the geopolitical conflict. They manufactured FSB bombings to look like Chechen terrorists and collaborated with the Chechnyan Islamist warlord Shamil Basaev.

Thus, while the domestic causes that Mansfield and Snyder argue caused the conflict are important, Courbe emphasizes that the geopolitical causes of the Second Chechen War can also not be overlooked. This assessment of democratic peace theory is useful beyond this particular conflict, providing a framework to examine the motivations of any incompletely democratic state.

See the full paper here!

Immigration Patterns from Southern Europe to Germany and Switzerland in response to expected job prospects and welfare

Reviewed by Matthew Zipf

In Immigration Patterns from Southern Europe to Germany and Switzerland in response to expected job prospects and welfare, Smith College undergraduate student Farah Hamud Khan examines the economic motives for northern-bound migrants in post-USSR Europe. Khan meticulously compiles emigration data from 1990 to 2013 for Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and then presents a regression analysis of the data set. For each country, Khan evaluates how welfare differences—measured by the ratio of mean wages between countries—and employment prospects motivate migrants.

The regression’s results preclude any all-encompassing conclusion, as the migration data between countries suggest varied reforms. “Immigration from Greece to Germany,” Khan writes, “is increasing and is dependent on both prospects of better employment and welfare gain.” But the regression also suggests that a wage increase in Switzerland will decrease emigration from Greece, which Khan highlights as contradictory to typical economic thinking.

Elsewhere, the regression suggests that after the Eurozone financial crisis Italians are less likely to migrate to Germany for job prospects, despite a doubling of emigration between 2008 and 2013. Khan discriminates between pre- and post-crisis years but does not factor out the initial migration boom, in the early ‘90s, which may have skewed her results.

Indeed, the paper neglects any social or historical factors outside of the development of the Schengen area and the financial crisis. “One might argue,” Khan writes, “that instead of using total migration flows, we could have used migration flows of workers only, since we are examining labor immigration.” The paper presents an exclusively economic analysis of a broader human phenomenon; as such, it cannot tell the full story.

Nonetheless, the paper provides a basis for future research and presents a nuanced account of the economic motives for migration in Europe. Khan’s work confirms the literature in stating that migration flows have increased due to improved job prospects and expected welfare, but stops short of any consistent conclusions as to the relative effects of each.

See the full paper here!

Roosevelt’s Recession, 1937: Lasting History and Contested Policy

Reviewed by Marielle Alvino

In Roosevelt’s Recession, 1937, Jonian Rafti studies the much misunderstood economic crisis which engulfed the Roosevelt administration. At the heart of his work lies the true understanding of how economic policy was enacted throughout the first half of the 20th century. He correctly situates the beginning of his discussion not in 1937 itself, but much earlier: at the onset of the Great Depression.

Influential economists at the time like Schwartz and Friedman deeply believed that the Great Depression had been caused by incorrect monetary policies. He finds that banks, by shoring up their reserves and liquidating assets, placed a large downward pressure on the money supply. This decline in money supply could have been avoided if the Federal Reserve had initiated large-scale purchases of government securities. Nevertheless, many looked down upon the Federal Reserve’s operations because they had been considered inflationary measures.  Interventionist Maynard Keynes, on the other hand, had advocated for government spending to stimulate the economy, a view which would later develop into the mainstream approach to government policy during recessions.  Much of the confusion, lack of theories, and ideological barriers, Rafti argues, would contributed to the 1937 downturn.

The author dedicates two chapters to describing the anecdotal experiences leading up to the 1937 slump. Though initially implementing a strong interventionist policy, the crisis was prolonged when many, the President included, had thought and hoped for it to be over. Unfortunately, their untimely policies extended the downturn by several more years. In Friedman and Schwartz’s words, “the most notable feature of the revival after 1933 was not its rapidity but its incompleteness.” In retrospect, economic historians today debate the development of this recession by also considering the monetarist aspect of the slump, thus begging the question: were the lingering low levels of growth due to an insufficient fiscal intervention or a contraction in the money supply?

Rafti answers this quandary thoroughly. He, for example, cogently handles the incomplete and even, imprecise economic data available at the time by posing two different models to control for the different indicators for money supply. His attention to detail pays off, and he is able to persuasively argue that it was the lack of fiscal rollout which lengthened the economic downturn.

The author’s historical account, combined with a critically-crafted econometric analysis, gives us an analytical framework with which to truly understand how economics was adopted at the beginning of the 20th century. Subsequently, the 1937 recession stands as a cautionary tale for those in the field today:  indecision, political ambition, and a general lack of knowledge are what economists influencing government policies have the responsibility to forbear. As Rafti himself concludes, “ideology must play a role subordinate to the wellbeing of society”. His study stands as exemplary empirical evidence of his message.

See full paper here!

Village Loudspeakers to Virtual Chatrooms

Village Loudspeakers to Virtual Chatrooms: Mass Media and Multigenerational Memory in Sino-Japanese Relations


Reviewed by Devika Kapadia

March 10, 2015


The Chinese media, since the Mao era, has been regulated by the ruling government to achieve various political ends—often relating to Sino-Japanese relations. Rothschild analyses the relation between changing media portrayals of Japan and changing attitudes towards Japan, especially between and within generations. She complicates a perception of general dislike towards Japan by examining empathetic responses to Japan after a natural disaster, hypothesizing that the younger generation of Chinese citizens are polarized in their opinions, rather than universally against Japan.

She analyses different political aims of the Mao and Deng governments. The Mao regime created discourses of hostility and aggressive nationalism toward Japan after the ‘100 years of humiliation’ China suffered at the hands of Japanese and Western imperialists, while the Deng regime, focused on improving the Chinese economy, allied economically with Japan at a time when Japan was a very successful and fast growing market—changing the discourse from nationalist antagonism to economic cooperation. This change in discourse, and the subsequent opening up of the media through the rapid dissemination of information and opinion through the internet, created a generation that is far less unified in its opinion on Japan than before. Though she succeeds in establishing this polarization, she offers little interpretation as to why it is significant—why the particular instances she chooses provoke positive responses, and what political implications are born out of this polarized national opinion. 

We are presented here with a binary—favourable opinions of Japan or not—and though polarization establishes complexity, it doesn’t necessarily delve into the nature of the complexity within opinions towards Japan. This sets up room for further investigation—in what situations do opinions change? What relationship with history, city distribution, and wealth from the Deng era might impact these differing opinions?


View the full paper here!

Women and Guns: Hidden and Apparent Subordination in the Gun Debate

A Gendered Examination of the Gun Rights Debate

Reviewed by Maria Laposata
February 21, 2014

“Women and Guns: Hidden and Apparent Subordination in the Gun Debate,” by Tyler Bishop, examines the agency and objectification of women in the current gun control debate. Bishop argues that both sides use women as “rhetorical symbols to appeal for their opposing causes,” and, as such, women no longer function as agents in the debate, but as tools used to argue for one side or the other. Consequently, Bishop says, women’s opinions with regard to gun control are devalued.

Bishop gives further detail with regard to exactly how women are used as rhetorical symbols. He states that gun control proponents point to women who have lost their children in tragic gun accidents, while gun rights activists point to women who say they need guns to protect their families. Bishop even goes so far as to say that these stories would be far less effective were they told by a man. In both cases, the women function as highly emotional, family-centered reasons to be in favor of or against gun control.

Guns, Bishop says, are a masculine topic. By this he means that the advertising is largely targeted towards men, that that same advertising generally focuses on masculinity, and that more men than women currently own guns. This is significant, he says, because women’s opinions are—across the board—devalued when it comes to these masculine topics. Polls have revealed that women’s opinions on topics like national defense as well as gun control are not trusted, likely because women are stripped of their agency in these “masculine” debates.

As the paper concludes, Bishop reminds us that gender is one exclusionary factor at play in this debate. Class and racial issues are also figure in. Most importantly though, Bishop highlights that we are all affected by the gun control debate, that any exclusion of agency is an injustice, and we must work to right it.

Click here to view full paper