Our public policy researchers are working tirelessly this semester — and Florida State University is recognizing their success.

In a record-breaking year, FIVE DMC researchers will be presenting at FSU’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). The symposium will run virtually from 12:00PM to 4:00PM on April 1st, 2021. You can register to attend the event, here: event registration link!

If you cannot attend the event – or you want to learn about their projects beforehand – check out their abstracts below.

Banking the Unbanked: Increasing Financial Service Access 

Noelle‍ Du Bois‍  | DMC Public Policy Researcher
Political Science and Economics; Minor in Russian


With 7.1 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.

Creating a Sense of Place in Midtown Tallahassee, Florida   

Kyle ringers | DMC Public Policy Researcher
International Affairs; Concentration in Urban Planning


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?

Mixed-Use Zoning Codes and their Effects on Housing Units  

Noah dankner | DMC Public Policy Researcher
economics Major


Does regulation or the market encourage housing development for cities?  Scholars, economists, and planners continue to debate whether market-based practices or regulatory processes are the best path towards increasing housing supply. Houston, Texas is an example of a deregulated city or “pro-market” environment. Whereas Miami, Florida 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.  This study analyzes two neighborhoods Greater Fondren Southwest in Houston, Texas and Coral Way in Miami, Florida by running the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test.  This study tests 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. Additionally, population and 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.

CollegeTown Housing Affordability: A Case Study of Tallahassee, FL

Danielle Waidley | DMC Public Policy Researcher
economics, spanish major


School choice is heavily debated in terms of student performance, but these policies influence other parts of our communities that may be overlooked by mainstream conversation. Theoretical evidence derived from the Tiebout Sorting Theory supports the claim that school options are accounted for when home buyers are deciding where to live. Therefore, a price premium for school quality is embedded in the price of houses. With this understanding, current researchers investigating the effect of school choice on housing prices generally find a decrease in the price premium from school quality on housing prices. In the last 10 years, Leon County households have an increasing number of school choice options such as charter schools, vouchers and scholarships, and limited open enrollment. Thus, leading to the research question, what is the relationship between elementary school grades and housing prices in Leon County?

CollegeTown Housing Affordability: A Case Study of Tallahassee, FL

Yolanda St.Fleur | DMC Public Policy Researcher
Political Science, Music Major


With the costs of college tuition and fees continuing to rise, university students in the United States are disproportionately at risk for experiencing housing insecurity.  With the majority of students opting to live off campus, researchers have associated housing insecurity as a major barrier that can impact students’ academic progress.  This research examines the effectiveness of housing policies for university students who are located within or near the CollegeTown area that is part of the Gaines Street Revitalization project in Tallahassee, Florida.

Using survey methodology, this study collects housing preference data from students attending two major universities, Florida State University and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, that surround the CollegeTown area. The researcher distributed the survey using multiple social media platforms to promote student response rates.  Preliminary results show that housing options within CollegeTown are much more expensive in comparison to the adjacent areas. Students make housing decisions based on many factors, such as: affordability, distance, and a variety of amenities. In terms of policy recommendations, new revitalization projects can limit housing options for low income students. Future research should examine ways to make CollegeTown housing more accessible to the average college student.

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