In Germany, a UTD Student Spoke About Dallas Economics to Nobel Laureates

UT Dallas
Tammy Leonard

Late last month, Tammy Leonard, a Ph.D. student in the UT Dallas's School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, went to Germany -- not on vacation, but to speak to the 2008 Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences, very fancy. UTD's initial media release concerning the trip sounded fascinating -- Leonard was speaking to the high-falutin' assemblage about "the local impacts of foreclosures and how people decide to make contributions to their local environments" -- but we wanted to know more, so we asked Audrey Glickert, UTD's spokeperson, to provide some more info. Late yesterday, she sent back Leonard's summary of her presentation, which focused generally on neighborhoods affected by foreclosures and specifically on nonprofits' intervention efforts in South Dallas and West Dallas; it's after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky

My research focuses on the question: "What influences very local public good provision within the contexts of a neighborhood and how can these factors be leveraged to improve neighborhoods--especially poor neighborhoods?" By "very local public goods," I mean things like the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, informal neighborhood interactions such as monitoring children, or social cohesion, and other neighborhood organizations such as crime watch groups, etc.

First, I've studied the neighborhood effects of foreclosures in Dallas County and have found that properties closely neighboring a foreclosed property experience a price decrease that goes beyond normal price relationships seen through real-estate pricing based on neighborhood comparables. My hypothesis is that this price reduction is perhaps caused by the effect of vacant or poorly maintained properties during the foreclosure process which exert negative effects on local public good provisions. However, I am not able to prove out this mechanism.

My next project analyzes what factors influence individual's decisions to maintain their residential property, and here I look at a nationally representative sample of homeowners. It appears that as housing appreciation began to rise early this decade, individuals began to base maintenance decisions partly on the perceived quality of their current neighborhood. This effect was not seen prior and I am awaiting the latest round of data to see if this effect has once again reversed itself as the housing market has cooled.

Finally, my last project is based on research which was conducted through the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Economic Sciences (CBEES) lab at UT Dallas in which we collected data from residents of several local neighborhoods. I am currently comparing the motivations for volunteering and public good provision for residents of South Dallas/Fair Park and residents of West Dallas. The question remains if we can uncover mechanisms which might allow policy makers and/or local non-profit groups to increase participation in these neighborhoods and foster economic development that will improve the well-being of residents.

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