Blazers rock social science

Feb. 27, 2004, midnight | By Erica Hartmann | 20 years ago

Two seniors make top five at Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

Two seniors presented prize-winning papers at the Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) sponsored by the University of Maryland Feb. 22 to the 24. They will attend the National JSHS April 28 to May 2 in Baltimore, all expenses paid.

In total, 24 of the 40 presenting students at the JSHS were Blair students. Magnet seniors Elliott Wolf and Abhi Nargundkar placed second and fourth, respectively, for their work.

Wolf was awarded $1,000 and will give a 15-minute presentation at the National Symposium. His paper, "The Use of Racial Profiling by the Maryland State Police in Drug Interdiction from 1995-2002," is based on the data collected over an eight-year period from the Maryland State Police (MSP). Wolf provided a complete analysis of the data that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) needed to support the current lawsuit against the MSP filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "All the [existing] analyses weren't very detailed, and I didn't think they proved anything," he said, adding that the previous reports were "not mathematically justified" and sounded like "liberal ranting."

Wolf's report, according to JSHS, is mathematically sound. He found a significant bias based on the numbers. He said he statistically proved that "Maryland State Police have a greater propensity to search minorities, and that propensity seems to be solely based on race. Many of the excess minority searches were unjustified."

Lawyers Debbie Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland and William Mertens of the NAACP mentored Wolf, who wrote the report for his Magnet senior research project.

Nargundkar also wrote his paper, "Searching for the Missing Labor Force in the Current Labor Slump," as his senior research project. He won $500. By analyzing trends in unemployment to population ratios and the labor force participation rate, he estimated that two million people were unaccounted for in the June 2003 unemployment rate. Those people, comprising about 1.4 percent of the population, dropped out of the work force and then become "discouraged" and stopped looking for a job. Because you must be looking for a job to be classified as unemployed in the United States, these people are "missing"; they simply disappear from statistics.

His report is the first to break those missing people down into the demographics of race, gender and age. Most of them are white, women or young according to Nargundkar; minorities and especially senior citizens were mostly unaffected by the latest economic recession.

Nargundkar worked with Drs. Lawrence Mishel and Jared Bernstein at the Economic Policy Institute in DC over the summer and fall of 2003.

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