Using Economics on the Job- Lowell Ricketts

Using Economics on the Job- Lowell Ricketts

Q​: In your current job, do you use economics on a regular basis, including quantitative/statistical

A​: As I walk through the plaza towards the St. Louis Fed’s main entrance each day I often relish the thought that the day’s workload will involve research projects which draw directly on my undergraduate degree in economics. I graduated in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in economics, including a math emphasis.

During my senior year I had the opportunity to design my own research project in Econ 590 (tutorial in research project design) with Professor Ken West at the helm. That experience spurred my interest in working on economic research as a career and prompted me to pursue a research analyst position at the Federal Reserve Banks to gain more experience before committing to graduate school. April marked the sixth year that I have been at the St. Louis Fed. During that time I have worked on a broad spectrum of research projects focused on applied microeconomics, domestic and international monetary policy, macro theory, forecasting, and regional economics.

In the past year I have joined a smaller research outfit within the Bank called the Center for Household Financial Stability. The Center’s work focuses on household balance sheets, more specifically, how to strengthen them and identify trends impacting American families today and in the years to come. For example, the Center uncovered a disturbing trend where higher education didn’t protect the wealth of all racial and ethnic groups equally during the Great Recession. It then organized a conference this past year to commission further research which digs deeper into potential explanatory factors. In the past year I have developed extensive working knowledge of large and complex datasets. I worked with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel (5 percent random sample of all individuals with a credit score and SSN) to create a new regional data report, the Quarterly Debt Monitor, which tracks consumer debt trends in our region.

I also worked with complex survey data from the Board of Governor’s Survey of Consumer Finances to quantify the breadth of racial inequality in both wealth and loan delinquency outcomes as well as determinants of those outcomes. As far as technical skills go I have learned how to program in Matlab, SAS, Stata, and R while at the Bank. In all honesty, upon graduation I had only a modest amount of experience working with Stata and picked up everything else while working on various projects.

My career at the Bank has been far more rewarding than I anticipated coming out of school. I feel very fortunate to have not only found a job in the tumultuous job market of 2009, but to have found one that continued to build on my skills gained during my time at UW.

-Lowell Ricketts ‘09