The entire process of economic analysis has been a lesson of humility. This experience can be summarized as trial and error. The most difficult portions of the class happened at the beginning, middle, and the end. What I mean by that is: initially choosing a topic was frustrating; finding an economic theory that represented my model was daunting; and running the regression analysis in order to complete my paper felt like, what I imagine, insanity feels like. Although the hardships make the largest impression on me the time invested to overcome them was most likely the best lesson.
Choosing a topic is difficult. I liken it to choosing a username. You want to choose something that is significant to you, interesting to others that may see it, and is something that you can commit to. Fortunately, the news coverage on presidential candidates helped to nudge me in the right direction. Immigration. I wanted to explore what kind of impact that immigrants have on U.S. citizens.
Finding literature that pertains to immigrants is vast and has multiple viewpoints about its benefits and costs. What model effectively represents my research question? I went back and forth looking for previous economic models that I could use. I finally found one that I thought encompassed what I was looking for within the immigration surplus. As I progressed and was nearer to the final draft I realized that the model was too narrow. I needed a broader representation which came in the form of the aggregate production function. The process of finally reaching a final model was also a system of testing, retesting, and looking for alternatives.
The regression analysis caused a large degree of anxiety. I include gathering data in this portion. Finding meaningful and consistent data is heartbreaking. Data that you find may need to be adjusted or due to the small amount that you are able to obtain may need to be omitted. In hindsight, the earlier that you can start gathering and formulating your data the better. I would prioritize this step as high as the literature survey. I ran countless regressions. I adjusted my independent variables repeatedly. I was focused, even obsessed, on finding a linear regression that was statistically significant! This is the point where you must decide where the search ends and documenting the results begin. That is hard. I feel as though I gained a greater understanding of regressions because I had run so many tests.
Presenting the results was fun. At the end of it all, you have so much data and information that you’ve gathered along the way and you want the class to know it…in 12 minutes. Those 12 minutes are difficult to pace yourself. One or two practice runs do not cut it. As I presented I tried to slow my initial pace because in my practice presentations I found that I finished too quickly. In front of the class my initial pace was too slow. Finding the “Goldilocks” pace is something that must come with experience. It’s finished and now and I have that much more experience for my next presentation.
The entire process is rocky. I constantly doubted the value of the material that I submitted. I was unsure many steps of the way. But I can walk away feeling that I did gain a better understanding of the process. Each of us is attempting to create something new and incorporate the things that we’ve learned along the way. We are not solving a problem that already had an answer. Our problem doesn’t necessarily have an established answer. As economists we are attempting to find problems that need to be analyzed and answered.