Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects
The Capstone Project is a major research thesis or creative project in the student's major. Students choose a topic, are mentored by a faculty member, and complete a project that serves as the “capstone” of their major. It’s an exciting, pivotal project that often launches the next stage of your academic or professional life. The project typically takes four semester to complete. Below, you will find titles from some recently completed capstones.
"Estrogens Regulate Metabolic Substrate Concentrations in the Brains of Young Adult Female Rats: A Multiple Memory Systems Approach." Capstone
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Abstract: As the most potent circulating form of estrogen in most young adult female mammals, estradiol has extensive effects on physiological functioning. Estradiol effects are especially notable with the drop...
Abstract: As the most potent circulating form of estrogen in most young adult female mammals, estradiol has extensive effects on physiological functioning. Estradiol effects are especially notable with the drop in the hormone observed when a woman transitions into menopause, with accompanying changes not only in overall physiology but also in brain functions. Recent research reveals the complex effects estradiol has on regulating learning and memory that vary by type of cognitive task among other variables. In particular, increased estradiol levels improve performance on hippocampus-dependent tasks, but impair performance on striatum-dependent tasks through direct actions on these different memory systems. Estradiol’s bidirectional cognitive effects might result from regulation of energy substrate availability and metabolism, a hypothesis tested in the present research. Prior research done in our lab revealed via microdialysis that peripheral injections of estradiol to ovariectomized female rats significantly increased glucose and lactate concentrations in the extracellular fluid of the hippocampus. The goal of the current study is to to determine the effects of estradiol on basal extracellular substrate concentrations in the striatum using similar microdialysis procedures. Results showed no significant effects of low-dose peripheral estradiol injections (4.5 μg/kg) on extracellular glucose concentration, which was 2.75±0.17 mM with control oil injections and 2.61±0.14 mM with estradiol injections. However, rats treated with estradiol had significantly lower extracellular lactate concentrations of 0.508±0.018 mM compared to 0.617±0.029 mM in oil-treated controls. Further, assays on serum showed no change in peripheral concentrations of glucose and lactate with estradiol, suggesting changes are specific to the striatum and not simply a result of altered systemic availability. These findings reveal the role of bioenergetics underlying estradiol’s regulation of memory systems and point to potential neural processes that become dysregulated with female aging and reproductive senescence.
"Welcoming the Stranger: African Refugees and Israel's Asylum Regime." Capstone
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Abstract: This paper will explore the Israeli asylum regime and its development since the state’s inception and will discuss the rationales and motives behind national policy and public perception of asyl...
Abstract: This paper will explore the Israeli asylum regime and its development since the state’s inception and will discuss the rationales and motives behind national policy and public perception of asylum seekers. Over the last decade, Israel’s asylum regime has been significantly upgraded to meet the growing needs of the state to manage an unprecedented flow of asylum seekers entering into the country. Upon arriving in Israel, however, asylum seekers have found a state that is reluctant to take them in and a citizenry unwelcoming to outsiders perceived as a divisive “other.” This “otherness” is perceived as a danger to many in Israeli society, who bear concerns that, as a fact of their “otherness,” asylum seekers threaten to alter the social and political dynamic of a state that is still young and working to ameliorate a number of national issues. The paper will analyze this perception and discuss how it has influenced the development of the asylum regime. The first section provides an overview of the international asylum regime in order to contextualize the history and events in Israel. The second section provides a history and analysis of the development of the Israeli asylum regime from its earliest days to the present, highlighting key factors and events that have impacted the growth of the regime. The third section discusses a number of influential facets of Israeli society that impact Israel’s approach to and perspective of refugees. The final section offers conclusions on how the Israeli asylum regime may move forward, extrapolates the case of Israel to a global context, and suggests possible paths for future research.
"A Case Study of the Yasuni-ITT: What is New about the Twenty-First Century Socialist Development Model." Capstone
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Abstract: This paper explores and challenges the development strategies of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and, more generally, the new Latin American left through the Yasuní-ITT case study. Claiming to implement...
Abstract: This paper explores and challenges the development strategies of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and, more generally, the new Latin American left through the Yasuní-ITT case study. Claiming to implement a post-neoliberal development model that stands to uphold the principles of buen vivir, post-neoliberalism, and the 2008 Ecuadorean constitution, the Yasuní-ITT case study seems less like a commitment to the rights of the Pachamama and the rights of indigenous tribes, and more like a political tactic, the creation of a hollow narrative that positions the new Latin American left as anti-Northern, anti- IMF, and as “post-neoliberal.” In this thesis, I examine different data from the World Bank, US Energy Information Administration (EIA), IndexMundi, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Ecuadorean government, and other sources in order to determine changes under the Correa administration in oil and development strategies. I also use experts, and their research to drive my argument and further explore twenty-first century socialism. These sources and data will help prove that the Correa administration, and other Latin American leftist governments, are not providing a viable “post-neoliberal development strategy” but rather that the systems we see in place are a form of neo-extractivism, a system that continues to exploit hydrocarbons but with a larger state role.
"Sourcing the Sherds: An Analysis of the Coarse Earthenware Ceramics from Trents Plantation in Barbados." Capstone
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Abstract: Trents, originally known as Fort Plantation, was one of the five initial plantations established by the English in 1627. Since 2012, three different loci at Trents have been excavated: an outbuilding ...
Abstract: Trents, originally known as Fort Plantation, was one of the five initial plantations established by the English in 1627. Since 2012, three different loci at Trents have been excavated: an outbuilding to the main house (Locus 1), enslaved laborers’ living quarters (Locus 2), and a cave site (Locus 3). Locus 1 is well stratified with clear divides between material dating to the pre-sugar era in the early 17th century and the following period from mid-17th to early 18th century. 18th and 19th century deposits cap this locus. Locus 2 dates from the mid-17th to early 19th century. Distinct floor areas date to the earlier period, but the majority of the data date to the later 18th century. Surface material across the site date from the middle of the 18th century until emancipation in 1838. The material from Locus 3 date primarily to the 18th century. The material culture at Trents displays the economic shift from small plantations to large-scale sugar manufacturing in a British Caribbean colonial context. Changes in the site’s material culture overtime chronicle this shift to sugar. The array of domestic and industrial coarse earthenware recovered from the site constitute an important data set that has the potential to yield significant information about the site and those who lived there from the early 17th to mid-19th century. A standard system of analysis was developed for the study of all of the coarse earthenware. This system identified the basic characteristics of each sherd including paste color, inclusion characteristics, and form type, which allowed for a distribution analysis of the earthenware excavated within the entire site to compare assemblage characteristics between loci. This distribution analysis provides insight to the various economic, domestic, and social usages of distinct spaces within the plantation. Until recently, the combination of the industrial nature of sugar wares and the use of glaze and wheel turned production resulted in interpretations that emphasized a reliance on the importation of European manufactured earthenware. However, recent research in Barbados provides archaeological and documentary evidence that there is a history of on-island coarse earthenware ceramic production since at least the 17th century. Though these potteries mainly produced industrial wares, archaeological research at the Codrington Estate pottery found that as much as 10% of the annual production was for domestic wares (Scheid 2015). This thesis serves as a background study to a series of scientific assessments aimed at determining which ceramic vessels were made in Barbados and which were made in England or elsewhere. Two analytical systems, Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) and Laser-Ablation Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), were selected to compare the chemical composition of a representative sample of the artifacts excavated, Barbadian clay samples, and known British ceramic samples. A third analytical system, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) will be performed on a subset of the representative sample in order to gather chemical information on the various glazes found within the assemblage. This study presents an overall examination of the coarse earthenware as well as a description of the samples that have been sent out for scientific investigation. Upon the return of the data from these external analyses, potential relationships and multivariate groupings of the samples will indicate if the vessels were imported or locally produced.
"Unusual Children: Queerishness and Strange Growth in A Wrinkle in Time and The Giver." Capstone
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Abstract: This project examines two different pieces of modern children’s literature, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Lois Lowry’s The Giver, in terms of their protagonists̵...
Abstract: This project examines two different pieces of modern children’s literature, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Lois Lowry’s The Giver, in terms of their protagonists’ respective strange identities. I begin with Katherine Stockton’s theory of sideways growth, which outlines the unusualness often found in child protagonist. I use Stockton’s work as a jumping off point to examine the queerishness of two protagonists, L’Engle’s Meg Murray and Lowry’s Jonas. Meg is unfeminine, and her experiences with language and definitions defy gender binaries and easy definitions; throughout the course of the novel, she learns to embrace her “flaws” (her unfeminine, difficult to define traits) and use them to save her family. Jonas lives in a dystopian society that has embraced Sameness and which reflects Foucault’s hypothetical Panopticon. It uses surveillance to make sure its citizens and the language they use are easy to categorize. When he is chosen as the Receiver and charged with the burden of all the memories his community has forbidden, he is symbolically reborn. Through his connection with his mentor, The Giver, and an infant named Gabe who is physically growing the “wrong” way, Jonas uses his strange individuality to build his own queerish family and challenge his community’s oppressive power structures.
""What did u say?": Examining Multi-Tasking Effects on Academic Performances." Capstone
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Abstract: The ability to multi-task—that is the ability to simultaneously complete more than one activity—has become increasingly essential in the high-tech world that we operate in. However, one's ...
Abstract: The ability to multi-task—that is the ability to simultaneously complete more than one activity—has become increasingly essential in the high-tech world that we operate in. However, one's capacity to multi-task efficiently has become a concern among researchers, especially in regards to the influence of technology. Cellular phones play a major role in distracting individuals from completing tasks that require sustained attention. A recent study demonstrated that the mere receipt of smart-phone notifications without interaction with the phone itself, can cause significant distraction and error in an assigned task (Stothart and Mitchum, 2015). Proposed results from this study as well as others, could prove worthwhile to explore in the education realm. Technology is being utilized more and more in classrooms to enhance learning, whether through instructor use or student use. However, students’ direct use of their mobile phones for reasons unrelated to learning could be even more distracting than receipt of mobile notifications. The spike in multi-tasking efforts and push to be able to divide one's attention responsibly, especially with learning, complicate the debate of the use technology being a part of multi-tasking or a distraction. If mere mobile phone notifications can result in task disruption, it will be useful to examine to what extent can one efficiently balance direct mobile phone use through texting, and learning, in a classroom environment. Participants will listen to short neutral passages, and answer quiz-like multiple choice questions at the end after texting while listening, or solely listening. Results showed that in this study design, text messaging did not have a negative effect on retaining information.
"The Influence of the Estrous Cycle on Acute Seizure Activity." Capstone
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Abstract: Epilepsy is a neurological disease that is characterized by spontaneous seizure activity. Seizures are excitatory events that result from the abnormal excessive and hypersynchronous firing of populati...
Abstract: Epilepsy is a neurological disease that is characterized by spontaneous seizure activity. Seizures are excitatory events that result from the abnormal excessive and hypersynchronous firing of populations of neurons in the brain. Catamenial epilepsy is a condition in which seizure threshold fluctuates during the female menstrual cycle. It is commonly hypothesized that this fluctuation is due to the changes in estradiol:progesterone ratio that occur over the course of the menstrual cycle (Herzog, 2008). It has been shown in many studies that estradiol has proconvulsant properties whereas progesterone possesses anticonvulsant properties. Considering the pattern of hormonal variation and the effects of sex hormones on seizure threshold, a female would be most susceptible to seizure activity when estradiol levels are high and/or immediately following progesterone withdrawal. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is an enzyme that facilitates the first committed step in the metabolism of arachidonic acid to biologically active prostaglandins. It has been shown to serve as an endogenous suppressor of seizures. Its expression is constitutively expressed in subsets of excitatory glutamateric neuronal populations and it is intensely induced under conditions of strong excitation, such as occurs during convulsive seizures (Hewett, 2006). Inhibitors of COX-2 enhance the sensitivity to and severity of acute seizures. However, its role in the fluctuation of seizure threshold in catamenial epilepsy remained to be explored. Given that both COX-2 and progesterone possess anticonvulsive properties, the goal of this study was to examine the possible correlative relationship between these two neuromodulators. Considering the influence of female sex hormones on seizures, it was posited that both seizure sensitivity and brain COX-2 expression levels will vary over the course of the estrous cycle and that the latter will be inversely related to the former. Studies were performed with female mice, which were treated with pentylenetetrazol (PTZ), a GABA-A receptor inhibitor, to model acute seizures. Results showed that COX-2 expression does indeed fluctuate consistently over the timeframe of the estrous cycle and that this may correlate with hormonal changes in the brain. An additional related study was performed to examine the possibility that sensitivity to PTZ differed between female and male mice. It was observed that females were more resistant to PTZ-induced convulsion than males. This project was a new direct of the research in the Hewett laboratory. The results established an animal model of catamenial epilepsy in mice that will provide the basis for future studies to examine the role of neuromodulators in seizure sensitivity.
"The Artist, the Workhorse: Labor in the Sculpture of Anna Hyatt Huntington." Capstone
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Abstract: Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) was an American sculptor of animals who founded the nation’s first sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens, in 1932. Hyatt Huntington, whose personal papers are ho...
Abstract: Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) was an American sculptor of animals who founded the nation’s first sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens, in 1932. Hyatt Huntington, whose personal papers are housed at Syracuse University, is an important yet understudied artist. Focusing on Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures in Brookgreen Gardens and on the gardens themselves, which also included a zoo, this paper will examine themes of labor in the artist’s oeuvre.
Hyatt Huntington placed an emphasis on hard work as she fought to distinguish herself as a sculptor in a male-dominated field. The products of her labor often venerate the work of animals, from bulls to horses to jaguars. Many of these sculptures are situated at Brookgreen Gardens. Founded at the dawn of the Great Depression, the gardens provide an opportunity to study her work in an era in which labor became a central theme for many artists, who, like Hyatt Huntington, saw hard work as a means to a better future. The multifaceted views of labor manifested in Hyatt Huntington’s work offer critical insights into her sculptures and American art at the time, as labor transforms her sculptures from realistic depictions of animals into beacons of toil, endeavor, and meaningful production.
"A Refugee Paradox? Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion of Bosnian Refugees in Germany and Sweden." Capstone
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Abstract: The aim of this project is to explain what factors account for the differentials in treatment of Bosnian refugees in Sweden and Germany. Although both of these states are signatories of the same inter...
Abstract: The aim of this project is to explain what factors account for the differentials in treatment of Bosnian refugees in Sweden and Germany. Although both of these states are signatories of the same international conventions that govern states’ humanitarian obligations toward refugees, the resources available to the refugees varied greatly between both countries, which in turn influenced the lived experiences of the Bosnian refugees. This paper examines these discrepancies within the contexts of ideas about national citizenship, the existence of governmental institutions designed to foster refugee integration, and external, non-state factors such as the media and other charitable organizations that were capable of impacting refugee experiences. My research was primarily conducted through an examination of academic sources, including books, journal articles, and scholarly studies. I also relied heavily upon individual interviews conducted by academic researchers as well as primary source documents from both the Swedish and German governments. My research revealed in full form the true complexity of the reasons for the discrepancies and discontinuities in the treatment of Bosnian refugees. The distinctive political and social histories of Sweden and Germany provided yet another rich and complicated dimension to my project. Although my capstone is centered on two specific case studies, the lessons learned from them are invaluable when discussing the wider implications of incorporating humanitarian standards in international laws and agreements.
"Gustave Doré: The Magic Illustrations of Charles Perrault’s Contes de Fées." Capstone
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Abstract: Gustave Doré: artist, creator, dreamer. In 1862, Doré illustrated “Les Contes de Perrault,” an anthology of fairy tales by Charles Perrault including familiar stories likeLittle ...
Abstract: Gustave Doré: artist, creator, dreamer. In 1862, Doré illustrated “Les Contes de Perrault,” an anthology of fairy tales by Charles Perrault including familiar stories likeLittle Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots. Doré’s intricate engravings accompanying each story include picturesque landscapes, expansive forests, and grand cathedrals. In his time, Doré did not feel appreciated or understood by his contemporaries in France and he therefore reverted to the spaces of his childhood for inspiration. Returning to the multi-layered landscapes of the forest and the Gothic cathedral, he re-discovered the sublime and grotesque, enfolding them in turn into his illustrations for Perrault’s stories.
"Faith-Based Organizations in Disaster Relief: Locally-Based Strategies for a Higher Demand Future." Capstone
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Abstract: Due to the effects of climate change, natural disasters are beginning to occur more frequently and are causing greater destruction. The American disaster relief system currently relies on a nationally...
Abstract: Due to the effects of climate change, natural disasters are beginning to occur more frequently and are causing greater destruction. The American disaster relief system currently relies on a nationally focused, top-down approach. As resources become more and more limited, it is expected that disaster relief fatigue will occur, required local communities to take a larger role in their disaster relief processes. Right now, major player in both local and national disaster relief are Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), who provide many crucial services before and after disasters
This paper develops an economic model of the rebuilding stage of disaster relief in order to examine the prioritization and resource allocation problems it faces. Through a series of case studies, the model is applied and used to point out a series of systems and methods by which local FBOs have, and might further be able to play larger and more significant roles in disaster relief.
"From Maus to Magneto: Exploring Holocaust Representation in Comic Books and Graphic Novels." Capstone
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Abstract: The following Capstone project documents my research into the topic of Holocaust representation in comic books and graphic novels. Comics are an oft-overlooked medium in academic circles, so there is ...
Abstract: The following Capstone project documents my research into the topic of Holocaust representation in comic books and graphic novels. Comics are an oft-overlooked medium in academic circles, so there is a distinct lack of scholarly works examining comics outside the fields of pop culture studies or comics art studies. As a result, outside of works like Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the phenomenon of Holocaust representation in comics is relatively uncategorized and unexamined. It was my intention in this project to demonstrate that comics are a legitimate medium for depicting and analyzing the Holocaust both as a historical event and through the lenses of trauma and memory. I approached this goal by establishing a spectrum of the types of Holocaust representation in comics and presenting an in-depth analysis of a single representative work for each category on the spectrum, concluding with an examination of visual and stylistic trends within comics across the spectrum.
"The Incidence of Chagas Coinfections Amongst Acute Dengue Patients in Machala, Ecuador." Capstone
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Abstract: Dengue fever is a febrile illness found throughout the tropics that, in severe cases, can be deadly. The most rapidly spreading of any mosquito-borne disease, dengue is re-emerging as an illness of gr...
Abstract: Dengue fever is a febrile illness found throughout the tropics that, in severe cases, can be deadly. The most rapidly spreading of any mosquito-borne disease, dengue is re-emerging as an illness of great concern in Latin America and around the globe. The CDC estimates that as many as 400 million cases of dengue occur each year. The pathogenesis of dengue virus is complicated and acts through modulation of the host immune system. Dengue polarizes the immune system balance of T helper 1 (Th1) and T helper 2 (Th2) cells towards a Th1 inflammatory response. Parasitic infections have also been shown to affect the Th1/Th2 balance of the immune response, although how these immunological changes alter the severity of dengue during possible coinfections has yet to be explored. One of the most common parasitic infections in Latin America isTrypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas disease. Like dengue, T. cruzipolarizes the Th1/Th2 balance of its host. By triggering a Th2 response, Chagas disease may counteract the Th1 response caused by dengue thereby masking dengue symptoms, increasing the frequency of asymptomatic infections and leading to underreporting of dengue in regions where Chagas is common. In order to begin to examine the effect of parasites on dengue pathogenesis, this study examined the incidence of Chagas disease and T. cruzi/DENV coinfections in Machala, Ecuador. The sample set used for this study was collected as part of a larger dengue study in Machala by SUNY Upstate Medical University. The incidence of Chagas was 3.1% (n=360) and that of T. cruzi/DENV coinfections was 0.6%. The average age of Chagas positive individuals was 50 and 81.8% were female. As this study was a preliminary screening, a larger study should be undertaken in order to better access the T. cruzi/dengue situation in Machala and to further the knowledge base of the immune response to dengue via analysis of the effects of coinfections on disease progression.
"Defining the Role of Erlin2, an ER Membrane Protein of the Erlin1/2 Complex That Mediates Ubiquitination of the Inositol Trisphosphate Receptor (IP3R1)." Capstone
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Ataxias and neurodegenerative diseases affect neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. Those who suffer from spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) experience degeneration of the spinal cord in the...
Ataxias and neurodegenerative diseases affect neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. Those who suffer from spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) experience degeneration of the spinal cord in the dorsal columns and dorsal column nuclei, and of the cerebellum (located at the base of the brain), which controls coordination and voluntary movement. Abnormal function of cells is followed by their demise. As these processes proceed, patients suffer from an array of symptoms, which include problems with coordination, vision, gait and memory loss. As more neurons die, symptoms worsen, and sadly, this results in an individual’s inability to function in the world.
Autosomal dominant sensory ataxia (ADSA), also known as neuroaxonal dystrophy, a spinocerebellar ataxia with other neurological signs, is caused by degeneration of the posterior columns of the spinal cord. This disease is genetic in origin and like many others, is progressive. Furthermore, it is characterized by cerebellar atrophy linked to complications involving balance, posture, and voluntary muscle movements. ADSA is caused by a mutation in the E3 ubiquitin ligase, RNF170, an enzyme that facilitates recognition and degradation of the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) receptor through the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. Studying RNF170, and other proteins that associate with the receptor to carry out endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation is important because it can revolutionize advances in trying to treat ADSA.
Other prominent proteins that play a role in receptor degradation are found in the erlin1/2 complex, which serves as a recognition factor, to which RNF70 is constitutively bound. We looked at the basic growth patterns of αT3-1 mouse gondatrope cells in wild type, cells replete with erlin2 and lacking erlin2, and cells replete with RNF170 and lacking RNF170. We investigated the interaction between erlin2 and RNF170 by trying to determine if ubc13 is the E2 that attaches to the receptor, because it is the only known E2 to make lysine-63 chains, by which the receptor is ubiquitinated. This was done through co-immunoprecipitation and through the use of cross-linkers. Furthermore, we looked at using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to knock out ubc13 in the future.
There was no difference in growth between the cell types, even when stimulated by GnRH. There was no clear interaction between ubc13 (E2) and RNF170 (E3) in all of the experiments. We hope to use CRISPR to show that lysine-63 chains are not made when ubc13 is not present, in order to potentially validate that ubc13 is the E2 that binds to RNF170, thereby allowing for degradation of the IP3 receptor.
"Personal Wealth and Legislator Voting Ideology." Capstone
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Abstract: This paper studies the impact of personal wealth on legislator voting ideology. I specifically examine members of the US House of Representatives during the 112thCongress. After establishing a relatio...
Abstract: This paper studies the impact of personal wealth on legislator voting ideology. I specifically examine members of the US House of Representatives during the 112thCongress. After establishing a relationship between wealth and poltical views toward economic policies amongst the general public, I hypothesize that wealthier legislators will have more conservative roll call vote records on economic policy than their less affluent colleagues. After controlling for party, district ideology, district wealth, and district education level, my multivariate analyses indicate that party and district ideology are the only variables that have a statistically significant relationship with legislator voting ideology. My research does not support my initial hypothesis and indicates that personal wealth is not a significant determinant of legislator voting ideology on economic issues.