Job Market Paper available!

I am now officially on the 2019-2020 academic job market! My job market paper “Carceral Schools and College Expectations: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization School Crime Supplement” is now posted here. I will make sure to update this as I go.

My paper asks about the unintended consequences of school security, in terms of depleting students’ expectations of going to college in the future. Unlike other papers using similar data, I examine the impacts by racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups to better understand the disparate impacts of these measures. My results are consistent with the literature, and illuminate an additional human capital cost of school security. I then use an interdisciplinary conceptual framework to understand these results in the context of the carceral continuum and existing social, racial, and economic inequality.

Grad Student Beginner’s Guide to Restricted-Use Data

I decided to write down some steps for graduate students looking to work with restricted-use data, but not at a university or department offering dedicated secure data space or licenses to tack on to (because institutional memory is important!). My advisor was super helpful in walking me through the process, but this outline quick guide may be helpful to others, especially since this isn’t a topic you learn in any courses in graduate school.
There are two main steps to obtaining restricted-use data, which are:
1.) IRB approval at your university
2.) Restricted-use data application approval from the data source
The first step is to read about the IRB (Institutional Review Board) process and complete a CITI training, so that you understand the process and issues that arise in research (https://about.citiprogram.org/en/series/human-subjects-research-hsr/). As a researcher, you will renew this every three years. I actually found the history and ethical issues around Human Subjects Research in the training to be very interesting.
After that, some tips and steps:
1. Identify the research office on campus. Ask “Which office deals with Research Compliance and IRB approval?” Folks in this office can guide you to the necessary steps in getting your research approved and get rolling with your restricted-use data license.
2. Is your research human subjects research? If so, what category? To find this out, you will first file a Human Subjects Determination Form, or similar, with the research office (or equivalent).
3. After determining the category of your human subjects research, then you will begin the IRB approval process. This involves writing a protocol for your institution’s IRB that demonstrates why you need restricted-use data and how you will adhere to security protocols.
3. For your IRB protocol, collect all application materials from the data source and note the steps needed to complete them.
a. Do you need a computer security plan?
b. Do you need notarized signatures? Is a notary available in your department or on campus?
c. Does some portion of the application need to be completed by the Research office of your university?
4. Draft all of the relevant portions of your protocol for your records, and to be reviewed by your advisor. This includes:
a. Computer security plan
b. Outline of project and methods
c. Description of why restricted-use data is necessary for your project. Be clear and succinct in describing your research question, method, supporting literature, and why your project is a contribution in which analyzing the restricted-use data in necessary. This description is important, since reviewers from other fields may be reading your protocol, and you want to clearly communicate your project, especially to those less familiar with your specific research.
5. You will then submit your protocol for approval by the IRB. Once this is complete and approved, you will then complete the data license application from whichever restricted-use data source you are using (for example, the Institute of Education Sciences, Department of Labor, etc.) At this stage, the research office can assist with next steps if needed.
6. General advice: Ask around! Did your advisor or mentor previous use restricted-use data? Or another professor in your department, or another department? Ask for help about how the application process has gone for others.
7. More advice: When in doubt, just keep pestering and asking for help. In my experience, the bottleneck was finding physical space (i.e. a secure office space). But, asking and reminding proved very useful is finding a small, secure office space for using my data.
8. Helpful clarification: Many restricted-use data licenses require the applicant to hold a PhD, so you will need your advisor or professor to assist in your application. They will then specify you are a data user on the license agreement.
As a PhD student at a department without dedicated resources for secure data, it can feel like more “prestigious” programs have a leg up when it comes to accessing certain data. They do, but that should not deter you from a good research idea, and your advisors and professors are there to support you in pursuing that, especially if you are willing to put in the work of going through the license application process. I also look at it as a very good learning experience for when I apply for restricted-use data or similar research methods as an Assistant Professor, where I will once again have to learn the institutional processes and procedures.
Next steps after getting your data: PRINT THE USER MANUAL (if that feels feasible), find tutorials on your data, and look for replication code from others who have published with your data.

More writing about writing

I feel intrigued by this idea of “deep work” and limiting distractions, and the cognitive cost of those distractions. From experience in PhD world, it is certainly true that interruptions and distractions, including those tasks like email, can reduce work quality. But, I have also always found small “shallow work” to be important to start with as it builds momentum in the work process, sometimes. The tricky part though is to build that momentum and actually move into “deep work”: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/smarter-living/how-to-actually-truly-focus-on-what-youre-doing.html#

I found this blog post about writing peer reviewed research to be very useful. The idea of building “deep work” writing into your schedule everyday has been really transformative for me in this dissertation process, and greatly reduced my anxiety around writing. I definitely went from binge writer to everyday writer in the past few years, or as this post puts it binge vs. incremental writing. Some days are just 30 minutes of “low hanging fruit” tasks like citations, writing a summary of a useful paper, etc, while other days are many hours of planning, writing, formatting, or doing metrics work. A research log is crucial- it is where I plan out my work, reflect on my work, log what I have completed, and look ahead. I also really like the advice of one paragraph per subject. It’s easy to get lost in academic writing, and spend several paragraphs just trying to prove you know one small particular thing, but being succinct usually means you actually understand what you are writing and can convey it simply: http://phdtalk.blogspot.com/2018/02/lesson-learned-writing-peer-reviewed.html?m=1

 

Resources I’m reading on doing, presenting, and publishing research

How to publish applied economics papers

Take away points

  • Expect rejection, and rejection is okay!
  • Also expect to wait….
  • Know your journal, its aim and scope, who publishes and what is published
  • Craft not just good analysis, but also a good story
  • Place your research within the literature, filling a gap or expanding on an outstanding question
  • Sell your question, and answer
  • Write with style and flow
  • Dial in the elevator pitch, and turn this into your abstract and introduction
  • Don’t bury the question
  • Make tables and graphs readable, and meaningful
  • Focus on the question and the contribution
  • and look at the following……

The introduction formula

  • A good boiler plate model
  • Hook, question, antecedent, value-added, road-map

The conclusion formula 

  • Summary, limitations, relevance to policy, future research

How to give an applied micro talk 

  • Clear question
  • Preview the findings
  • THEN, go into detail, but spare the boring details about processing data
  • Present a clear and explicit model
  • …”no pauses unless you really want to stress something”
  • Use tables strategically
  • Practice!

Updated Abstract: Carceral Schools and College Expectations

Revising my research and my abstract:

This study examines the impact of attending a carceral school- that is a school with metal detectors, locker checks, police or security staff, required identification badges, locked doors, and surveillance cameras- has on students’ expectations that they will attend college in the future. Using pooled data from the National Crime Victimization Survey: School Crime Supplement 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015, I show that visible and intrusive security measures negatively impact students’ expectations of their future educational attainment. Using a probit model, I estimate with significance that metal detectors are associated with a -0.024 marginal effect on a student’s expectation of attend any college after high school and a -0.021 marginal effect for expecting to graduate from a four-year college, while controlling for achievement, race and ethnicity, gender, age, private or public school, area of residence, parental education level, and household income level. Further, I show that for non-white students, the effects tend to be larger, and that for Black males, the presence of security guards or police has a negative effect on expectations of attending any college in the future. I survey the literature on the school-to- prison pipeline, school security, and racial identity and schooling to theorize that four channels contribute to this negative effect: the crowding out of college preparatory resources, internalized negative feedback and stereotype threat, discipline and the achievement gap, and developing perceptions of injustice with regards to school security. This finding illustrates an important negative spillover effect of increasing school security in regards to student’s expectations of their future educational attainment.”

Things I’ve learned so far in the dissertation process

So far:

  • progress isn’t always linear, but that still requires putting hours in every day; somedays feel like zero progress, other days are filled with momentum
  • ask Stata for help (help reshape)
  • actually, ask everyone for help, advisors, professors you know, phd friends, etc.
  • interdisciplinary research can make you feel deficient across subjects (“am I citing enough economics??”), but bringing together multiple disciplines will definitely give way to unique insights
  • #EconTwitter is, in fact, very helpful and can keep you up to date on new research on your topic and the field in general, and also help make some professional connections (I’ve made several great ones!)
  • find your conference (someone else very smart actually told me this one)
  • read for fun, not just on your topic.
  • write down all 8000 of those next research questions
  • version control!!!! +date all of your files
  • it’s okay to not have the “perfect” model or findings; just prove you know what to do with what you’ve got
  • work through all of those feels about research and writing; keep a log where you “warm up” by reflecting on possible challenges for today’s task and then  “cool down” by reflecting at the end of the day on how you are tackling your challenges and next steps
  • drink 500 beverages a day at your desk and stay hydrated
  • go outside every few hours
  • “always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper”

Recent Book Reads: Econ of Ed and Race, Spring 2019

Here are some things I’ve read or am reading recently (somewhat) related to my research topic, that I have really enjoyed. I’m calling it Econ of Ed even though these are all written by sociologists (and one journalist), but this just speaks to the point that if economists really want to understand inequality behind the numbers, read sociology!

The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students by Anthony Abraham Jack

What an informative, critical, and cathartic read for me (as a #firstgen). Jack follows a group of students at an elite college coming from distinctly different backgrounds and educational experiences: the upper-income students, lower-income students who attended a private or elite high school, and lower-income students from less resourced schooling backgrounds (the “doubly disadvantaged”). For anyone wanting to understand the transmission of inequality, even in the empirical “best” of circumstances”, this is a must-read and illuminates so many flaws in our higher ed system. Read Jack’s take on the admissions scandal as well.

Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy  by Tressie McMillan Cottom

I can’t rave about this book, this author, and her writing enough. Tressie McMillan Cottom is a force. I actually read this when it first came out a year or so ago. McMillan Cottom shows us how for-profit institutions exacerbate inequality by preying on the marginalized. A lot of the findings of this book also speak to issues of credentialization outlined in this Roosevelt Institute report on student debt. On a personal note, I felt very validated as a budding economist reading this book, since a few years ago I recall noting in the NCES data the startling racial and gender segmentation in the for-profit sector (think trade schools vs. cosmetology and nursing assistants).

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side by Eve L. Ewing

Again, a force of a writer! In the depths of my imposter syndrome, I often forget why studying public schools is important. Not just important, but should be at the forefront of any progressive research agenda. Ewing reminds me in discussing why it matters to study Chicago’s school closings: “The people of Bronzeville understand that a school is more than a school. A school is the site of a history and a pillar of black pride in a racist city. A school is a safe place to be. A school is a place where you find family. A school is a home.” (155-6) Alongside preserving history, family, community, and home, schools are a massive and formative interaction that we all have with the state, and one we still feel ownership over. Schools hold the possibility of a space of progressive transformation.

The Warm of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

I’m still only a small bit through this one, but it goes beyond “epic”. Here are some reviews from NYTimes and the New Yorker. I really look forward to finishing this one.

Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Okay, this isn’t really economics or dissertation related at all, but everyone should read this if you want to understand racism, inequality, capitalism, patriarchy, and so on and so on. Here’s an emotional and painful excerpt on her experience with medical racism.

That’s all for now. What else should I read?