UNDERGRADUATE ECONOMICS RESEARCH
Related to the following post on reddit.com/r/academiceconomics
Q: I'm a freshman at a not so great school for economics (didn't get into the big name schools and this was cheapest option), but I really like economics. In high school I won a bunch of awards in economic competitions. Not trying to brag, just to prove that I'm interested and have some aptitude.I've reached out to my current professor and other professors in the department but none of them are really doing any research. The few that are just want upperclassmen to do data entry work for a long term project. Most people at my school just take economics to work in business. I was recommended to do the MA in four years but that seems like a long term thing.
My perspective as a tenure-track faculty member doing empirical research at a small public 4 year degree granting school:
You are a freshmen, so unless you are a significant outlier, you've not been exposed to econometrics.
Many faculty may hesitate to have you do anything other than data entry if you haven't taken econometrics. Why? Econometrics is a language that you need to learn to speak fluently before you can really add value beyond simple tasks like data entry and literature reviews. Don't forget, having you involved isn't costless, many of us are quicker at these tasks on our own or with colleagues, rather than having a student involved.
So given I have to invest time in the relationship, I need to invest that time in an optimal way. What is not optimal is for me to attempt to teach you econometrics just for the sake of having you as an RA. You'll take the class, it's a requirement, so this just wouldn't make sense. This is absolutely nothing personal, it's just prudent time management.
I poach the top 2-3 econometrics students as research assistants and co-authors on wild ideas we have a common interest in, but wouldn't really consider students early in their career because they need to develop their intuition more through exposure to the coursework. If you think you can add value beyond just data entry tasks, then signal it, show them you can add value. It would definitely shut up my concerns if you walked in with some code and preliminary attempts at addressing an interesting question.
You shouldn't discount the experience of doing simple tasks like data entry at the very start of your career. You signal your interest in the field and that you are serious about the profession, you may form great bonds with professors or other RAs, you will do a lot of reading that will help you write better, you will learn nuances of cleaning data, etc etc etc.
My guess is the regional Fed would send you info about one of their public outreach programs, the Fed challenge, etc, as ways of being exposed to economics and research. It's not reckless to reach out, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
This blog is a therapeutic outlet for me to write about life on the tenure track in economics.