The Application of Data: from Lecture to Policy

By Bianca Munguia

Heather (Hyunseo) Yoo, a rising fourth year majoring in Economics, wanted to gain practical research experience before graduating. Searching through various summer prospects, she came across SISRM. “When I read about the research opportunities in Economics, I decided to apply right away.”

This summer, Yoo enrolled in Econometrics and learned extensively about regression analysis, among other statistical topics related to economics. She also gained practical programming skills in programs such as R and Stata.

“Econometrics is very applicable in a real-world setting. It enables us to apply mathematical statistics to economic data and provide empirical support to models. We can also obtain numerical results, make forecasts about various events, and ultimately use models to make policies that directly affect our society,” she says.

The course is condensed over a five-week period, and the fast pace can be challenging. “When you study Econometrics for the first time, learning new concepts and adjusting to its way of thinking may take time,” says Yoo. Despite the learning curve, Yoo enjoyed investing her energy in a sole subject, and states the workload is manageable. She thanks the course instructor, Christopher Roark, who answered any question and made sure his students understood new concepts thoroughly.

Weekly Chalk Talks introduced students to ongoing research by faculty in the Social Sciences. Yoo found the joint presentation of Professors Kimberly Hoang and Kathryn Takabviwra most interesting for their discussion on real ethnographical research. “Their work made it necessary for them to be engaged in dangerous situations, and it was intriguing to hear how their research plans changed in real-time. It is really fulfilling to see how all this work gets done by passionate and attentive researchers.”

For her research assistantship with the Center for the Economics of Human Development, Yoo looked forward to “encountering messy, real-world datasets and trying to sort them into different variables in order to find relationships and connections. Econometrics teaches me how to approach data, so I’m excited to apply what I learn to my research project.”

Before her assistantship, Yoo knew of her mentor, Professor James Heckman, for his Nobel Prize on the Heckman Correction. “I find his research in family economics interesting because it’s very relevant to our lives and has so many implications for public and administrative policies.”

Yoo’s research project focused on analyzing parental investments and social interaction on intergenerational mobility, working closely with the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to create new variables and datasets to use in regression models. These regressions will help define intergenerational elasticity, a measure which intergenerational mobility is based on.

“If in the summer class, I learned about the statistical technique of running regressions, in the research, I am learning about what kind of work it takes before the actual regression can be done,” says Yoo.

After college, Yoo hopes to work in consulting. “These skills will directly help me be more competitive as a consultant because I now have experience in analyzing the economic consequences of various issues.”