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Student's Paper on Politics, Welfare Expenditures Takes Prestigious Award

An economics graduate student in the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics has won a prestigious academic award.

Juan Sebastian Leguizamon

Juan Sebastian Leguizamon was named the Barry M. Moriarty Student Paper Winner for his paper "Yardstick Competition and Government Political Structure: Evidence from State Welfare Spending" at a recent meeting of the Southern Regional Science Association in Washington, D.C.

Using per capita data on public welfare expenditures from 1997 to 2006, Leguizamon examined the relationship between political parties in state governments, welfare expenditures and adjoining states’ expenditures for welfare. 

According to the literature, because of competition for votes and voters, politicians look at adjoining states’ expenditures for welfare before making decisions on welfare expenditures in their states.

“Based on the data, I find that politicians not only look at neighboring states before setting the levels of public expenditures in their home state, but such interdependence among U.S. states is varied according to the structure of political structure. In other words, when compared to state governments that are politically divided, unified state governments react differently to neighboring states’ policies,” said Leguizamon, who is from Bogota, Colombia.

Leguizamon, who is in his fourth year of graduate studies, has worked for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research as a research assistant where he co-authored several reports, including two on the work experience of college graduates in West Virginia.

He has been teaching undergraduate courses in economics at WVU for three semesters. His research interests are public economics, urban/regional economics, and applied econometrics. His faculty mentors are Dr. Russ Sobel and Dr. Donald Lacombe.

“Sebastian was the first graduate student I worked with at WVU and had learned a lot of spatial econometrics on his own without any formal classes in the subject,” Lacombe said. “WVU has had a long tradition in supporting graduate students interested in spatial analysis and its continued commitment to this area is bearing fruit. Sebastian's award will hopefully be the start of many successful future endeavors in this area.”