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April 17, 2014

Hartwick student honored for economic analysis

The topic on which a Hartwick College student wrote an award-winning essay was the inspiration for her to return to school after 35 years, she said Wednesday.

Dawn Rivers, of Unadilla, presented her paper, titled “Behavioral Responses to Tax Incentives Among Small Business Taxpayers: An Analysis of the Sole Proprietor Capital Spending, 2000-2010” during the Issues In Political Economy Undergraduate Research Competition at the Eastern Economic Association Conference in Boston in March. More than 50 papers were presented at the conference, but Rivers’ was selected as the best.

Every year, Issues in Political Economy holds a series of sessions via an undergraduate conference where students present their research papers, listen to other students, and participate in panel discussions.

Rivers, 55, said the issue of whether and how small businesses respond to increases in the Section 179 expensing cap has intrigued her for a long time.

As a stay-at-home mother of four and then a publisher of a local economic newsletter, she often thought about the scenario: whenever the economy is in a lull, the government increases the tax cap to encourage small business owners to spend more money on capital products, she said. She always speculated that this strategy might not be working, she said, but didn’t have the research to back it up.

“No one else was doing the research, so I decided I wanted to,” Rivers said.

That’s when she decided to go back to school. At Hartwick, she learned many different research methodologies that eventually helped her produce the data she had been looking for. After analyzing her research, she said, she found that the spending of small business owners actually goes down in hard economic times, despite tax breaks. Rivers said she was happy to finally have solid data that proved her hypothesis and said she felt “vindicated.”

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