Thesis Corner: Interview with Alex Shaw on Wages Between Different Countries

This week, I interviewed our own Alex Shaw for our first Thesis Corner of 2017. Take a read!

Can you explain to our wonderful readers what your topic is?

Yeah, I’ll give it a shot. So, my topic is about comparing wages across countries and essentially using a measure PPP to control those wages their actual buying power within the country that they are in.

What made you choose that topic?

I originally wanted to do something more along the lines of income by college major but if you Google that you’ll find many articles that have covered that pretty in-depth. Just doing research you can find a ton of Forbes articles and OEC statistics that have sort of beaten that topic to death. So, there wasn’t a lot for me to add there so that’s one of things that [Economics Department] idea of a thesis is—to find your little niche that people haven’t touched on, something you can add that has been related to what a lot of people have done but not quite the same.

What were your results?

My results were essentially in finding average wages across specific industries across countries and then basically make sure that they all lined up so I could accurately compare industries to each other. So I found data on four countries—the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden. For the most part, my main conclusion for my paper is that if you want to maximize your income—specifically in higher income industries your best bet is the United States. There are a few exceptions but the most part the United States is the best way to go.

Did it take as much time as you thought it would?

From figuring out what I wanted my first topic to be with comparing income in a college major and then realizing I couldn’t do that and readjusting for what I ended up doing—that took me maybe a month. Then actually finding data and making it sort of all line up also took a while. There are a lot of points where you feel like you aren’t quite getting anywhere and then all of a sudden you have a breakthrough and find the data you need. That is a big restriction sometimes, there just isn’t enough information on the topic that you want to do and you have to go back to readjust. Or, as I said, sometimes you figure out what you want to do has already been done so again you go back and readjust what your topic is.

So do you have any advice to me as a senior next year?

Yeah, there are a few different ways to go. Some people do theory-based theses, which I can’t tell you a lot about since mine wasn’t a whole lot about that. But if you are trying to do something with data, try to find that data very quickly. We took econometrics together, it can get to be a pain in the butt to make that all work. That’s kind of the big idea, but Kate’s thesis class is designed around getting deadlines in early. So, if you do end up needing having to revisit or restart a topic you can get that out of the way quickly. The whole thesis class is based around peer-feedback and critique while trying to figure out how to best articulate what you are trying to find. Start early and move on from there.

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