Bound by June: clutch factor, abortion judges, and black voting patterns
Seniors discuss their theses, which are due in the upcoming months| Mar 28, 2018
In a somewhat unusual fashion, Dick Bush ’18 took a break from the computer and headed to the basketball court for his Operations Research and Financial Engineering senior thesis, setting out to quantify what National Baseball Association announcers refer to as a player’s “clutch performance.” Clutch is the ability of players to perform well in the final — and often game-deciding — minutes of the game. This is ever-important in the NBA, as 35 percent of games are within five points in the last three minutes. Announcers seem to be incessantly talking about the clutch performance of legendary players, but Bush noted that this is completely based on their individual memory of amazing buzzer beaters rather than an objective measure. He parsed the play-by-play reports from 15 years’ worth of games to create a database which, combined with an algorithm that he made, measures what he calls “clutch factor.” Look out for this amazing new measure on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network stat pages!
Jessica Quinter ’18 is diving deep into records of 150 Alabama appellate abortion cases for her senior thesis in the Wilson School. Specifically, she is looking at judicial decisions on parental consent laws — laws allowing minors to access abortions without parental consent. In most states, minors who are organized and serious enough to petition the court for such a bypass are automatically approved. In Alabama, however, almost 90 percent of petitions are denied. Her analysis focuses on the stigma embedded in judges’ language. Throughout her research, Quinter has found themes of moral deservingness and overarching norms of motherhood that seem to sway the judges. For example, judges refer more sympathetically to girls who became pregnant from their first time having sex, who have their boyfriend’s permission to terminate the pregnancy, or who mention future desires to have children. This, she pointed out, shows that Roe v. Wade is not the end-all-be-all for access to abortions — there is still a lot of work to be done.
For his political science thesis, Brandon McGhee ’18 invented candidates with different views and identities to measure the voting behavior of 1,000 black voters in his survey. This is based on the black utility heuristic, a political theory that says black voters will value their group over their individual beliefs when they go to the polls. For example, a voter might be personally against abortions, but still vote for a pro-choice candidate if that candidate is perceived to be a better choice for the black community at large. This theory is complicated when we consider that no group is monolithic and intersectional identities come into play. This survey will add to the plethora of research on voting behaviors surrounding black candidates, specifically focusing on black voters instead of the more commonly-studied white voters. This makes it a unique survey, with never-before-seen results — we look forward to hearing Brandon’s take on the black utility heuristic!