Week 6: Goldwater Institute

October 24th, 2012

Neil McCray ’13: Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

My last week at Goldwater went well. I completed a few last minute assignments regarding the index I built during my time there, and I also prepared notes on my projects for the intern who will be coming in to replace me. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties Dr. Schlomach was unable to plug my index into RATS, so I will have to wait for any conclusions based on my work. I look forward to hearing from him once he has done the required tests on the data.

Overall, my experience at Goldwater was great. As a philosophy student, I had almost no practical experience in data processing and index creation. However, after six weeks at Goldwater, I find myself interested in the statistical analysis of economics in ways I was not previously. I told Dr. Schlomach that I blame him for taking a perfectly good philosophy student who argued nothing but theory, and creating a philosophy student with interests in empirical and statistical analysis. I genuinely appreciate the exposure to new methods of thinking, and I expect that my time at Goldwater will shift significantly my goals for the future.

Week 5: Goldwater Institute

October 17th, 2012

Neil McCray ’13: Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

The fifth week picked back up again from the slow fourth week. I finished researching financial data for local cities and moved on to completing and reformatting an index built by a previous intern. Once that was completed, we plugged data regarding state budget processes into RATS, a piece of statistics software. Our results indicate that several of the factors Dr. Schlomach predicted would be significantly correlated with good predictive budgeting were so. Once he ran the regression, I did some more research to figure out a part of the index that we originally couldn’t recognize.

This week, I’ve been reformatting my own index to work with RATS. Once I reformatted it, I started doing calculations on the nation’s MSAs, their distances from ports, and the percentages of state populations in those MSAs. Once those calculations were done, Dr. Schlomach taught me how to piece the data together. Then, I had an index of state port proximity scores that reflected each state’s population relative to their proximity to a major US port. As I told Dr. Schlomach, the completed index of port proximity scores was the most beautiful sight I’ve thus far seen in Arizona (I haven’t visited the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, or Painted Desert). Now that the scores have been calculated, if I’m able to get the rest of the index reformatted before I leave, we’ll be able to run the index through RATS. I really hope the port proximity scores are statistically significant with regard to state GDP data. If the proximity data is significant, Dr. Schlomach will hopefully get to write a paper on it. As my time here comes to an end, it would be brilliant to find out that my work on port proximity and state economic prosperity will contribute to a paper at some point in the future.

Week 4: Goldwater Institute

October 10th, 2012

Neil McCray ’13: Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

My fourth week at Goldwater was a little slower than the first three weeks. I’ve completed all of the projects Dr. Schlomach has for me, so now, aside from the occasional short-term task, I’m largely left to work on my own projects or help other Goldwater staff. I’ve come up with some variables I think would be interesting to test for in the index I’ve built, so I’m adding those factors in. I’m looking forward to seeing if any of the factors I’ve added have a statistically significant relationship to economic prosperity in the US.

Some of my other smaller projects include gathering information on the overall financial status of a number of Arizona towns and cities and researching the number of Arizona businesses that will be significantly impacted by the Affordable Care Act provisions coming into effect next year.

Overall, I’ve appreciated this experience. I’m a double major in philosophy and political thought, so I’m definitely not a statistician or number cruncher. My skills do not lie in that field. However, I can honestly say that the experience of working with large amounts of data and creating my own index has shown me a side of politics I haven’t really worked with before. And, based on my experience at Goldwater, I’m confident that I’d enjoy working at a think tank someday. Based on my experience so far, I’m looking forward to what the last few weeks of this fellowship will bring.

Week 3: Goldwater Institute

October 2nd, 2012

Neil McCray ’13: Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

My third week at Goldwater was great. I finished gathering data on proximity to ports for my economic freedom and prosperity index, and decided to add sections on unemployment rates and interstate migration. I’m still working on the migration data at this point. In the next couple of weeks, Dr. Schlomach and I are going to run regressions on the data to test for correlation between factors including economic freedom as measured by several different indices, GDP growth, and proximity to ports. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m expecting some interesting results from the regressions.

I’ve also completed a few other projects as well. In my first week, I was given some information about a program in Arizona that deals with job training, and told to research it further. I did so, and found government reports that suggest the state is giving millions of dollars to multi-billion dollar corporations to subsidize their job training efforts. The kicker is that those dollars are taxed from all businesses in Arizona for job-training purposes—so, all businesses, including small family businesses and even non-profits like Goldwater, are basically paying for up to 50 to 75 percent of job training for a small number of businesses (including two of the largest mining companies in the world and UPS). It was pretty exciting to uncover that and pass it on to the investigative reporter here.

I’ve got some other projects to look forward to as well. I can only hope that the next couple weeks will be as interesting as the last few.

Week 2: Goldwater Institute

September 27th, 2012

Neil McCray ’13: Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

My second week at Goldwater has been great. The index I’m working on has developed considerably—it now includes data on populations across states, including metropolitan statistical areas, GDP data for states and MSAs, and rankings for the states from the indexes I mentioned last week. I’ve also started working on adding data on the proximity of all MSAs to US ports. Dr. Schlomach thinks that proximity to ports may help mitigate bad economic policy. Once the index is complete, that is one of the factors we’ll be testing for. I’ve got a couple other smaller projects going as well. When I’m not working on the index, I have been reviewing literature on economic prosperity, economic freedom, and government economic policy. I also spent some time researching Arizona state policies.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed my time at Goldwater. The exposure to policy analysis and policy research has been a great experience that is a perfect foil to my theoretical knowledge from classes and seminars in the past. In addition to projects I’m assigned as an intern, I’ve also gotten assigned readings on the school choice movement, the Great Depression, monopolies, and political philosophy. I will be able to use much of what I’ve learned here in a paper I’m working on for Dr. Sutherland. I can’t wait to combine what I’ve learned in classes with the practical knowledge I’m getting as a result of this fellowship.

Week 1: Goldwater Institute–Phoenix, Ariz.

September 19th, 2012

Neil McCray ’13, Guild Fellow in Public Affairs

I began work at the Goldwater Institute last Monday. I was extraordinarily impressed with the organization of the Institute in the first few minutes after I arrived. Prior to my arrival they’d set up my workstation, gotten me a fob to get into the building, and even set up a name tag on my desk. I was able to meet with Byron Schlomach, the Director of Goldwater’s Center for Economic Prosperity, less than an hour after I arrived. Immediately after speaking with him, I was able to get started on one of my primary projects expected to last the duration of my fellowship: indexing data on economic prosperity. Once it is more developed, the index will be used to test the explanatory power of other indexes relating to economic prosperity from groups such as the Pacific Research Group, the Mercatus Center, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Fraser Institute.

The first week of this experience has been very enlightening for me: I’ve attended two Institute for Humane Studies seminars in the last two years, so I’ve had plenty of theoretical exposure to ideas surrounding free markets and small government. However, working at the Goldwater Institute is allowing me to experience real-world policy advocacy of ideas that remain pure theory at academic seminars. The Goldwater Institute is one of the leading state-level policy advocacy groups in the country, and getting the opportunity to work with them has been a great experience so far. I’m looking forward to the next several weeks.

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