Sakib Aleem ’21

Williams College, Department of Economics, Williamstown, MA

This summer I worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Q. Ashraf in the Economics Department at Williams. I was primarily tasked with research devoted to updating and revising various components of the fourth edition of the undergraduate textbook, Economic Growth, that is being co-authored by David N. Weil and Q. Ashraf. My work involved reading economic articles from renowned international journals to conduct literature reviews and gather new insights on issues relevant to economic growth to update the discussions in the book.

I consulted literature on cross-country comparative development and inequality on the declining share of labor vs. capital income in many industrialized countries over the past two decades. My work also involved reviewing articles and updating discussions on the recent shift in the nature of technological progress from skill-biased technical change to labor-substituting technical change, the central roles played by historical “critical junctures” and various geographical factors in determining the nature of politico-economic and socio-cultural institutions, and the role of climate change in shaping patterns of human conflict and sustainable development across the globe. I also updated data presented in numerous charts and scatter plots throughout the textbook with the latest available information from various standardized international data sets to illustrate how differences across countries in-factor accumulation, technological progress and various endemic geographical characteristics can contribute to differences in the growth experience of countries, and thus, to cross-country comparative development. I used advanced functions in Excel to collect, consolidate and analyze data. For showing trends in economic growth over time, I ran regression analyses using R, and mining and extracting specific pieces of information sometimes required coding in Python.

Working as an economics research assistant this summer has been a great learning experience for me. Not only did I vastly expand my knowledge on economic growth, but I learned some key technical skills in data extraction from independent online sources. It also helped me improve my editing skills and taught me the importance of effective data presentation for academic readers of economic literature. The skills that I have learned and the knowledge that I have gained through this internship are invaluable and will immensely help me in writing my own thesis and doing independent research work in the future. I have been unsure about which path to focus on in the field of economics after graduation, however this experience has given me a better sense of the kind of research or organizational work that I want to see myself involved in post-Williams.

I am thankful to my supervisor Professor Ashraf for allowing me to be a part of his research. I would also like to express my gratitude to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for affording me the opportunity to further explore my academic and professional interests.