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Summer Research Fellow Studies Economic Decisions by States Amid Pandemic

October 12, 2020

Senior Jacob Vinch, economics major with minors in mathematics and finance, spent his summer conducting research with Dr. Ben Niu, associate professor in the Economics Department, examining the factors that influenced the decisions to enact the state-wide stay-at-home orders as a response to COVID-19.

Jacob Vinch gives a thumbs up while sitting at his laptop in his living room.

Having an interest in economic research, Vinch decided to take the valuable opportunity to conduct this research to gain experience in these times with such uncertainty in the internship market. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., he became interested in better understanding the varying state responses to the pandemic, particularly the stay-at-home orders.

The purpose of the research was to determine the factors that may have influenced the decisions, both consciously and unconsciously. To do so, Vinch used the statistics program, R, to estimate a Cox Proportional Hazard regression.

Moving forward, this experience will assist Vinch if he chooses to pursue economic research as a career path. He can share his experience as a Summer Research Fellow with potential employers, something that only some undergraduate students can say.

“The skills that I have gained will all be great assets when I begin looking for jobs or applying for graduate school,” said Vinch, who is also a member of the Honors program at Fisher.

Vinch also thinks that this research may continue to be relevant to help us understand the events and decisions made earlier this year if a second wave of the virus occurs or another pandemic hits in the future. As a result of this topic being new, one challenge he faced was collecting data and finding trustworthy sources early on.

Another challenge Vinch recalls was learning to understand the statistical method of survival analysis and how to make it work with his project. With difficulty comes learning and he now has a new statistical method in his repertoire.

Vinch shared that his biggest takeaway from the research was that it is extremely important to try to explain the world around you and share your feelings with others.

“In my opinion, one the most important things that I took away from this experience is a much-improved sense of self-reliance,” he said.