Economic Growth Center Research Assistants (RA) program
The aim of the IDE-EGC Research Assistantship Program is to provide IDE students hands-on, skill building experience as a research assistant while also supporting the broader work of EGC and relevant faculty research. IDE interns in the Fall or Spring semester are eligible to work for a maximum of 120 hours from October through December and/or January through May, paid by EGC (that is, roughly 10 hours per week – the maximum allowed in any given week is 19 hours, which is the ceiling imposed by Student Employment). A student can receive a waiver to work more hours if approved by the IDE and EGC Directors under special circumstances.
Professors, in this program or elsewhere at Yale, who are looking for RAs to do data analysis will be looking for STATA skills. Others will be looking for help with assembling and manipulating data, and those opportunities will not be so reliant on STATA. For some of you, STATA may be relatively new so we encourage any of you interested in RA positions to get some experience or sign up for one of the Yale Statlab/CSSSI minicourses on Stata after you arrive at Yale.
The benefit of being an RA goes beyond mere pay, because the RA experience can also be valuable as you apply for positions post-IDE, be they positions with J-PAL/EPoD/IPA, the World Bank or future academic programs.
Economic Development in Ghana Early Childhood Development in India Firm Dynamics in Developing Countries
As a research assistant, Shih supported multiple different projects focused on economic development. For one of his primary projects, he worked on a team led by Professor Christopher Udry at Northwestern, who is also the former chair of the Yale economics department and former EGC affiliate, to curate and analyze panel data from a large-scale, nation-wide panel survey in Ghana conducted by EGC and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana, Legon. Meanwhile, he also assisted Professors Costas Meghir and Orazio Attanasio on a randomized control trial study assessing the effects of various interventions on early childhood development in Odisha, India. Specifically, the research assessed the effectiveness of weekly home visits and mother-child group sessions on a variety of outcomes including child cognition, language, motor development, growth and morbidity.
In addition to his empirical work, he also had the opportunity to interview Professor Michael Peters about his research on firm dynamics in developing countries. Looking back, he appreciated the variety of different projects he had the opportunity to work on. “The projects I worked on were quite different in nature,” Shih said. “Some were quite structured, while others were in earlier stages of development and had more flexibility.”
In his experience, Shih felt educationally well-prepared to pursue additional economic research work, but as a student, he lacked further hands-on research experience. For him, the IDE Research Assistantship program was the perfect opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and experiences to pursue a PhD later on. Looking back, he reiterated the value of the robust Stata training he received at the beginning of the program. He also recalls the importance of just being able to explore the different panels of data and critically thinking about how to work with large datasets to answer economic research questions. Now, as Shih applies for PhD programs, he points to the research assistantship program as an invaluable experience during his time at Yale. “It can be hard to get research experience, especially during the pandemic, but this experience adds to my CV, and it has a lot of weight,” he said.
National Growth Statistics in Developing Countries
During her time as a research assistant, Gupta spent her time working on a team with Yale Professor and former Chief Economist of the World Bank Penny Goldberg and co-authors Noam Angrist and Dean Jolliffe. Specifically, her role on the research team was to help evaluate how reliable national growth statistics were in developing countries. Her work looked at how certain indicators like government influence and legal mandates for statistical reporting, may be impacting the reporting of certain national growth statistics. By assessing legislation and practices of certain countries, she had the opportunity to help make judgement calls regarding the efficacy of practices and laws around estimating national growth.
Reflecting back, Gupta pointed to this qualitative focus as a unique aspect of her research assistantship. “I learned a lot in terms of making judgement calls and using more than just Stata to do research work.”
Since graduating from IDE, Gupta has joined the Poverty and Equity team at the World Bank where she conducts policy analysis and evaluates the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Kenya. For Gupta, the research experience was useful in discovering some of the interests that would shape the beginning of her professional career. “The research assistantship program at Yale was a great way to work with qualitative data on macroeconomics,” Gupta said. “It enhanced my interest in the economics of growth.” Now, she hopes to explore the microeconomic components of development during her time at the World Bank as well. “I am so thankful Penny gave me the chance to work on this project. I had a wonderful time – the weekly calls with Noam were the highlight of this experience as I learnt from his experience, got regular feedback and had a space to explain my work.” Gupta said of the program. Given the situation with COVID-19, Gupta believes the research assistantship will be even more useful in providing relevant experience and skills that IDE graduates can rely on when entering the job market.
Gender Dynamics and Health Outcomes in Ghana
Shwetha Eapen spent her internship as a research assistant working on a large-scale panel survey in Ghana that is a collaboration between EGC at Yale, Northwestern University and the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Legon. She joined the team after the research team had completed collecting the third-wave of survey responses, and her primary task was to help clean and analyze the collected data. Of particular interest to Eapen were issues of household power dynamics between men and women.
The research team that she worked with also allowed her the flexibility to delve into topics that particularly appealed to her. “We were given the opportunity to browse through all the datasets and pick out the files that particularly interested us,” Eapen said.
Through weekly trainings and team meetings, Eapen, who had prior experience coding with R, was able to further develop her Stata skills throughout her time as an RA. According to her, this experience cleaning and working with large datasets was especially valuable for later on in her career. “These are some of the main tasks that RAs do, even as full time research assistants,” Eapen said. “As a person who also wants to take up a full-time research assistantship, I think this was a perfect learning scenario.” In addition, the internship also provided her with a better understanding of the full research process: “Outside of the technical skills, it also gave me an understanding of how data is collected,” she said. “This was first-hand information, so it really gave me a better understanding of how it is in the field.” Since graduating from the IDE program, Eapen has taken a role as a consultant at the World Bank. “This was a really good stepping stone for moving into full-time professional work, and it really smoothed the transition,” she said.
Marriage and Labor Market Sorting
During her time in the IDE Research Assistantship program, Goetz joined a team led by Ilse Lindenlaub, Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale, alongside Paula Calvo, a Yale PhD student, and Ana Reynoso, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. The project explored the economics behind how couples form, how they get married, and how marriage influences the firm that individuals choose to work at. Using an equilibrium model, the team assessed the downstream economic impacts of marriage and labor market sorting including inter- and intra-household income inequality as well as the gender wage gap. To learn more, read the paper here.
For Goetz, the value of the RA program came from an in-depth immersion in the economic research process. Throughout the extent of the program, she was able to develop strong coding skills, especially with Stata. In addition, by proofreading papers and engaging in conversation with Prof. Lindenlaub, Goetz learned about the economic theory behind these models as well as the overall research process. “The collaboration was a great experience,” she said. “They were very approachable and interested in making sure that I learned, which was really nice. ” Ultimately, the RA program provided Goetz with research experience and skills that would be applicable in her work after the IDE program as well. After graduating from Yale, she continued her work in economics by taking a role as a research assistant for Namrata Kala, a professor of management and applied economics at MIT. “The internship gave me experience that helped me to get this job [at MIT],” Goetz said.
Teaching Assistant (TA) position
A Teaching Assistant (TA) position with the Yale Economics Department, while it pays more per semester than the RA position, is more demanding, largely because there isn’t nearly the degree of flexibility, as time spent on grading/office hours/sections each week is fairly constant.
We generally encourage students to hold off doing a TA-ship until their Spring semester so they have time to acclimate to the program workload. Other schools and departments at Yale hire IDE students as TA’s, notably the Yale School of Forestry, for their environmental economics classes, some elective course at the Yale School of Management, and the Global Affairs program, for their more economically intensive classes.
In the Undergraduate Department of Economics, while the exact details vary by class, TAs teach two sections each semester, with a ceiling of 40 students per section.