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Darla Moore School of Business

Economic Ph.D. candidate examines timely topic of communities’ mistrust after incidents of police violence

Oct. 16, 2020

Moore School Ph.D. student Matthew Harvey studies how corruption impacts interpersonal trust and focuses his research on community trust levels after police brutality incidents.

Having always “loved” math, Harvey earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University in 2015. Deciding to pursue a Ph.D., Harvey decided to attend the Moore School so he could be close to his family in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and because of the reputation of the Ph.D. program.

Harvey said he decided to obtain his Ph.D. in economics because “economics is such a broad field with concrete applications that it drew me in; I could study my academic interests while producing research that could better society.”

Expecting to graduate from the Moore School in May 2021, Harvey is in the middle of extensive work on three dissertation papers. The first paper examines how individuals respond to police institutions after incidents of police violence. The second paper discusses the effects of police violence on interpersonal trust, and the third paper looks at the effectiveness of grassroots policies in preventing corruption.

“Many of my research questions center on what makes people trust institutions or each other,” Harvey said.

Using real-world organizations and examples for his research and papers, Harvey said that the real-world applications of his research are what he finds most interesting.

“I find looking at how shocks to trust in institutions can change individual’s behavior fascinating,” he added.

Hoping that the implications of his research can help improve communities across the United States, Harvey has studied a variety of police violence incidents and reactions, especially timely considering the country’s current climate.

“The papers on police violence provide useful information how individuals react after seeing or hearing about fatal encounters between officers and civilians in the news,” Harvey said. “If police violence decreases [individuals’] trust in the police, especially in particular communities, this could inform how police operate and seek to gain the community’s trust in such places.”

Fatal encounters between police and civilians can lead individuals to call the police less often, which could in turn lead to inefficient operation of the police force, Harvey said. His preliminary results also show that very salient fatal encounters can lead to large revenue losses through a fall in public transportation use.

An aspiring academic economist, Harvey said that he has become a better data analyst, public speaker and critic of academic research during his time in the Moore School’s Ph.D. program.

“Most importantly, I’ve become better at developing and producing viable research ideas,” he said.

Harvey plans to become a full professor at a research institution and to continue researching topics that can ultimately lead to the betterment of communities.

-Erin Mooney


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