I have completed my Freshman Monroe research project in Economics. Throughout the process, I gained a deeper understanding of data, statistics, the software Stata, and I learned a lot about the research process in general. As I discovered that I needed to adapt my initial plans to fit the data available, my focused area of study shifted significantly from the plans I discussed in my abstract blog post. The new variables I chose for study piqued my interest in an evolved set of questions, which led me, through use of statistical and graphical techniques, towards a meaningful set of findings.
In the last two weeks, I’ve made progress with my project. I have created a data set of historical federal census data and have worked to interpret, investigate, and analyze it in Stata, a statistical analysis software program. After I generated a data set in IPUMS (an online database of census microdata used by social and economic researchers) using the variables and samples I had selected, I downloaded this data and tried to import it into Stata, at which point I encountered a minor obstacle: the file was much larger than I had originally expected. I discovered that I needed to increase the maximum memory capacity in Stata from its default setting before I could import the data and begin the real work.
After only one week of research for my summer Freshman Monroe project, one of the most important things I have learned in this process is that initial research leads to more research. Once I begin researching a specific topic, I inevitably discover that there is always more research I need to conduct relating to issues underlying and surrounding that topic. This drive to learn more, to delve deeper, is perhaps what motivates researchers to pursue research on a single focused area for their entire careers. I am only just beginning to explore the correlations between economic and social variables in a historical data set, and yet I can already see how uncertainties in the data and underlying questions in the field of knowledge may motivate me to focus more intently, and to narrow and deepen my research methods in an effort to address those persistent and motivating questions.
For my freshman Monroe research project, I will use historical federal census and North Carolina death certificate data for a sample of individuals spanning 70 years, from the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, to research the correlations between individuals’ occupations and their and their children’s longevities. Specifically, I will attempt to answer the following questions: How did the occupational status of parents relate to their lifespans and those of their children? What trends can be found between parents’ occupations and their age at death, and how do these variables correlate to their children’s age at death? These questions will be answered by an analysis of compiled economic and health-related data.