Not even a month into the new year and our DMC researchers are already scheduled to present their work! Three undergraduate researchers have been selected to present at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) at the end of February. This conference was created by the Florida Undergraduate Research Association (FURA) and has a state-wide reputation for spotlighting the top researchers in the state. Read their abstracts below!

Noelle‍ Du Bois‍ | Public Policy Researcher

Title: Banking the Unbanked: Increasing Financial Service Access 

Mentor: Dr. Crystal Taylor

Major: Political Science and Economics; Minor in Russian

Abstract: With 8.4 million U.S households who identify as unbanked and another 24.2 million U.S households who are underbanked, financial inclusion is a major economic policy issue. Having a savings account helps promote individual wealth accumulation and the ability to secure loans to start small businesses or finance housing is essential. Barriers to banking include account minimums, overdraft fees, involuntary account closures, and potential distrust of the financial system. To help address this financial disparity, this research uses Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Economic Inclusion data to examine which sector of banking correlates the most to the number of unbanked individuals. This study uses FDIC survey data from the years 2015, 2017, and 2019 for eighteen Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) spanning from the midwestern to the southern United States. Using regression models, this study investigates the impact of savings versus credit aspects of financial institutions. The first regression model uses the independent variables of the use of nonbank services and concerns of not being granted a loan. The other regression model uses independent variables including the use of prepaid cards, rates of savings for unexpected emergencies, and income volatility. These models reveal that savings have a stronger correlation to the number of unbanked over the use of nonbank services. This study recommends creating bank account policies that cater to low-income individual’s needs in order to improve financial access. Future research could investigate potential impacts of re-establishing a postal savings system in America through partnerships with private banks.

Noah‍ Dankner‍ | Public Policy Researcher

Presentation Title: Mixed-Use Zoning Codes and their Effects on Housing Units  

Mentor: Dr. Crystal Taylor

Major: Economics

Abstract: Does regulation or the market encourage housing development for cities? Scholars, economists, and city planners continue to debate whether market-based practices or regulatory processes are the best path towards increasing housing supply. Houston is an example of a deregulated city or “pro-market” environment and Miami is an example of a typical American city which utilizes government-enforced zoning practices. Using 2000 and 2015 Census and American Community Survey data respectively, this research examines the relationship between zoning codes— which promote mixed-use development— and the number of occupied, available, and total housing units in a neighborhood. Data from two neighborhoods are analyzed: Greater Fondren Southwest in Houston, Texas and Coral Way in Miami, Florida. Utilizing the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test, this study analyzes the following five variables: occupied housing units, available housing units, total housing units, population, and median home value of owner occupied units. The findings of this research indicate a relationship between more flexible zoning and increases in occupied, available, and total housing units. Additional factors such as population and the median home value of owner occupied units also increased at statistically significant levels. In terms of policy recommendations, this research suggests that cities should consider the benefits of switching to a mixed-use zoning code similar to the example of Miami’s current code, Miami 21. Future studies should evaluate if more flexible policies will assist with cities experiencing housing shortages.   

Kyle Ringers | Public Policy Researcher

Presentation Title: Creating a Sense of Place in Midtown Tallahassee, Florida   

Mentor: Dr. Crystal Taylor

Major: International Affairs with a Concentration in Urban Planning

Abstract: American cities are struggling with a public health crisis that includes the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and depression due to feelings of isolation. Planners are looking towards urban design strategies to help create a sense of place to increase physical activity levels and connect individuals to their communities. Planners in Tallahassee, Florida produced the 2011 Midtown Action Plan in an effort to explore how a sense of place could be developed in the Midtown area. This research examines the plan’s approach to creating a sense of place by reviewing government documents and interviewing planners as well as key stakeholders involved in the planning process. Using survey methodology, this study also analyzes the perceptions of local residents, business owners, and patrons who live in, work in, or visit the area. This study explores the creation of a sense of place by measuring the levels of pedestrian traffic, features of the built environment, the presence of mixed-use zoning, demographic composition, and feelings of community. Preliminary results reveal that an immediate resident population is the primary catalyst in the creation of a sense of place. This ongoing study suggests that residents define their neighborhood boundary differently than what is found in government plans. This begs the question, “Does a strong sense of place amongst local residents translate to a high level of place attachment but a low level of resource dependence?”   

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