A Reflection on the 2018 Graduate Research Symposium by Kara Newman (MPP ’18)

Earlier this month, Kara Newman (MPP ’18) received an Excellence in Scholarship award for her paper, “Aid Shocks and Immigration to the United States” at the 2018 Graduate Research Symposium. She was kind enough to offer a few thoughts about her own research and about how participating in the symposium enriched her understanding of policy issues:

Kara with her award

“I recently had the opportunity to present my research, “Aid Shocks and Immigration to the United States,” at William & Mary’s Graduate Research Symposium. My experience at the symposium highlights how interdisciplinary it is: on Friday, I listened to my classmate Laura Mallison present on intersectionality in critical legal studies, learned about the concept of “relational mobility,” and examined a portrait of a member of a powerful colonial Virginia family. On Saturday, I was challenged to rethink the way terrorists select their targets before presenting my own research.

Conducting this research was a neat way to put concepts from my quantitative classes to work. While thinking about a potential research topic, I had been thinking a lot about the complex relationship between aid and immigration. Much has been written about it, and there is nothing near a consensus on the topic—the relationship depends on more apparent factors like immigration policy and diplomatic relations, but also on the exact type of foreign aid a country is receiving and the country’s wealth. While brainstorming, I remembered a discussion about aid shocks (severe negative changes in aid from one time period to the next) from Professor Tierney’s class, leading me to an epiphany: instead of looking at foreign aid provision, I could best contribute to this literature by focusing on severe reductions in foreign aid.

I hypothesized that severe reductions in the amount of aid that a country receives from one time period to the next would increase immigration, both to the United States and in general (measured with the net migration rate). My initial findings were not statistically significant (it happens!) and actually showed the opposite effect of what I had expected. There is more to be done with this research, including looking at a more detailed dataset that shows immigration flows between 30 selected countries and coding additional control variables. That said, I have really enjoyed using the tools from cross-section econometrics to explore a relationship that is important to understand.”

Good luck as you continue to explore the study, Kara!

In the Public Policy Program, we pride ourselves on facilitating opportunities for students to study and research the policy issues that are important to them and to the future of the field. Beyond the main curriculum, we encourage students to conduct independent studies and to foster their own policy interests in a supportive environment. There are even funding opportunities to support student research and conference attendance!

Do you have questions about the MPP program here at William & Mary? Feel free to visit our website to learn more.

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