Researcher: Eric Lee

Eric Lee is a senior majoring in Actuarial Science and minoring in economics. He is from Archbald, PA and recently accepted a job at Geico for his life after Roanoke College. There he will be analyzing all kinds of data. With The ECON LAB he is investigating mental health during the pandemic.

In his own words:

“When brainstorming research ideas for this semester, I wanted to think about what the biggest effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been on myself and the people around me. There are certainly many ways that the pandemic has negatively impacted individuals and the economy. However, I have chosen to focus on the effects that the pandemic has had on the mental health of Americans. This topic is very important to me because of the number of close friends I have seen in a very poor mental state since this began.

            As a basic first step, the data that was put out by the CDC’s Household Pulse Survey will be analyzed. This data does not include many variables (only symptoms of depression and anxiety), but it can be broken up by age, race, education level and state. This could allow for some basic analysis. For example, did some states or age groups experience worse mental health outcomes than others? I would be particularly interested to see if people of varying education levels were affected differently.

            I also plan on analyzing how mental health was affected by past recessions and making predictions about this recession since there is not much data yet available. Most importantly, I will analyze how the Great Recession of 2008 affected people’s mental health. Using data from BRFSS and other sources, I am sure that I will be able to break people up into similar groups as the Household Pulse Survey did this year. This could allow for comparisons to see if people are reacting similarly thus far, or if mental health outcomes are different due to the fact that this recession is associated with a viral pandemic.

            The goal of this research will be to illuminate how people are affected mentally by crises that are out of their control. There are important questions at the heart of this: are worse mental health outcomes a definite result of recessions and financial crises? Is there anything that can be done to lessen the impact of these events on the mental health of Americans? Hopefully, this research can begin to answer to some of these, or at least begin a discussion that could lead to further research being done on this topic.”

Researcher: Kristal Mainsah

Hometown: Wichita, KS; Major: Economics, Minor: Math, French

Research topic: Transportation Industry

Covid-19 is reshaping the transportation industry as we know it. The airline industry took a major hit during the pandemic leaving regional airports on the brink of extinction. Covid-19 has brought about recession-based cutbacks on transportation, which has people wondering what the future of regional airline transportation is. Will it be a thing of the past?  This research will be focusing on the changes to regional airports throughout the country while highlighting changes to the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport.

Researcher: Naomi Painter

Hometown: Amelia, VA; Major: Economics, Psychology, Minor: Peace & Justice Studies

Research topic: Food Security

Food aid programs and organizations at the state and federal level have initiated or are considering significant alterations to eligibility requirements and benefits since the start of the pandemic and resulting economic recession. Such policy changes present the question as to how COVID-19 has impacted the effectiveness of food aid programs in relation to resource allocation and distribution. Proposed changes such as increasing the requirements to receive aid and reducing the benefits implicate a decrease in effectiveness and negative impacts for high-risk populations (e.g. older adults, unemployed, single-parent households). The issue is investigated using weekly household survey data from the U.S. Census Household PULSE survey.

Welcome to The ECON LAB @ RC

The Center for Economic Freedom at Roanoke College received external funding to begin a student-centered research group beginning in the fall semester of 2020. The experience is student-centric and employs a hybrid educational pedagogy that prepares students for a remote workplace.

WHY? COVID-19 changed the way our economy functions, how we teach, and challenged the student learning process. At the same time, the popular press and some of their “experts” do not understand how crises are considered through the economic lens, including the joint consideration of public health and economic freedom. Surprisingly few people understand the economic way of thinking including how economists consider crises. Some believe and publicly state that economic thought is at odds with promoting public health, when economists specifically value human life (including lives other than their own.) As economist Betsy Stephenson said on an April 15thPlanet Money podcast, “Of course we put a value on human life. Why wouldn’t we?” COVID-19 brought the wide misunderstanding of economic thinking to the forefront.

Over the course of two semesters, the student team will learn:

  1. how to critically consider published reports about the effects of COVID-19 and related policies
  2. about important variables/information pertaining to the conversation
  3. how to download and “clean” that information
  4. how to analyze that information and study relationships within
  5. how to effectively present their findings visually, orally, and with the written word
  6. how to effectively communicate with team members through a variety of environments

Students will sharpen and build oral and written communication skills, both in person and virtually through Zoom and Slack, skills of increasing importance in the 2020 workplace and beyond.

We hope to repeat this experience in subsequent academic years and build relationships and projects with local government and private organizations in the Roanoke Valley. Follow our page to find out what each student is working on and contact us if you have a research question that you would like for us to explore. We generate economic research for the greater good.