Amidst COVID-19, Oberlin College students found ways to engage academically and creatively to contribute to the conversation surrounding the pandemic. One example of such work is Clare Stevens ’21, an economics major whose research skills landed her an internship last summer in the Community Development Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, where she published an article about the impact of the pandemic on eviction rates in the United States.
Stevens did not initially set out to study economics. After taking an introductory course in high school which did not pique her interest, she entered Oberlin undecided on her major. It wasn’t until Stevens enrolled in Professor Maggie Brehm’s Principles of Economics class that she discovered her passion for the field. “[Brehm] tied a lot of our lessons into real-world applications, which made it a lot more interesting. There are a lot of cool electives and ways to branch out, so from there I tried to take a lot of different types of econ, like macro and micro.”
Although Stevens cites microeconomics as her area of specialization, one of her favorite classes was Professor John Duca’s macroeconomics course, which helped her decide to major. Duca serves as a mentor to Stevens and helped her prepare for the Federal Reserve.
“Professor Duca told me that the Fed has really good internship programs, so I decided to apply. I think I got it because he gave me the advice I needed on what they were looking for in an intern, so I took the classes they were looking for. It was really through that mentorship that I got the opportunity,” Stevens said.
During her two months at the Fed, Stevens worked with Hal Martin, a policy economist interested in the impact of lay-offs and unemployment on eviction risk. Stevens and a fellow intern took the initiative to hand-collect data in the form of civil court records, securing 10% of data on the U.S. rental market after just two weeks. Then, they presented their data and began work on their article, “Measuring Evictions during the COVID-19 Crisis,” which analyzes data from 44 cities and counties.
Stevens’ internship was not her first foray into hands-on economics research. In summer 2019, she interned for the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust as part of the Heartland-Kalmanovitz Labor Capital Strategies Fellowship program. After graduation, Stevens will work as a research analyst at the Brattle Group, a Boston-based economic consulting firm.
Stevens took what she learned from her summer research and incorporated it into her honors thesis. With the help of funds from the Jerome Davis Research Award, which provides grants to assist Oberlin students in the social sciences with community fieldwork, Stevens studied the educational outcomes of eviction, focusing on elementary-aged students in Houston, Texas. For Stevens, Oberlin’s honors program in economics serves as a crucial step in preparation for post-graduate work in the field.
“I’m interested in potentially going to grad school, so the honors program has helped me to see what grad school is like. We’re held to a very high standard in terms of having a sound theoretical model and approaching the research project in a very rigorous way. Having an experience where you’re given the resources you need but you’re expected to produce a thesis at the graduate level is a good experience,” she said.
Above all, Stevens cites her learning experiences with Oberlin’s economics faculty as integral to her decision to pursue a career in economics. “The mentorship I was able to get at Oberlin was a huge part of how I set myself up for the future,” Stevens said. “I’m really grateful for that.”
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