Data Granted, Part II

A new round of library grants gave students access to critical data that kept their research moving forward
Author: Cook, Matthew
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Specks of golden light, forming strands, emanating from a bright source

Got data? For some Rochester students doing research, this playful homage to the 90s ad campaign for milk is a stinging reminder that they do not have data, and their research is stuck in the proverbial mud. In some of these cases, the River Campus Libraries is able to throw students a rope in the form of a data grant.

Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Arts, Sciences & Engineering, the Warner School of Education, and Simon Business School, can apply for support to obtain otherwise out-of-reach data sets needed to continue their research. The data grant program made its first awards last year. (ICYMI: Data Granted.) This year, the program has three recipients—two working as a team—who will present their research on December 3.

Here’s the Tower Talk preview.

Tax Incentives, Digitization, and Skill Demand

Policymakers and economists are equally interested in how investment stimulus affects labor demand. Any evidence of its effects is minimal. Geunyong Park, a third-year graduate student in economics, is taking a closer look at this.

Focusing on the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Park is investigating the effects tax deductions have on corporate labor demand for different types of tasks and skills. He will also explore how constraints on the local labor market affect the job creation stimulus's effectiveness.

Park has long been interested in the relationship between technological progress and employment. Through his research, he aims to better understand the process and develop policy that could help stabilize the labor market.

“It is getting obvious that some jobs are disappearing because of new technologies and automation,” he says. “On the other hand, there is some new job growth. But there is no guarantee that the rates of the change are stable, or that the displaced workers will get better jobs.”

Thanks to his grant, Park was able to access a data set that provides insight into how firms adjust their investment in software and IT equipment when responding to changes in investment tax deductions. By merging this data with hiring records from online job postings, he can see how firms are adjusting their IT capital and personnel.

“For a grad student, this data is very expensive,” Park says. “Receiving the grant provided a great opportunity.”

Fighting Income Inequality with International Trade

There’s a fierce debate, both academically and in policymaking, regarding the role trade has played in the increased income disparity seen in the last few decades. Understanding that role and the mechanisms behind it are crucial to understanding its effects. Enter Victor Hernandez Martinez and Roman Merga, fifth-year graduate students in economics.

The research pair sought to provide more robust answers to which workers are affected by trade, and how and why it happens. Looking at almost two decades of data from Spain, they found that international trade reduces wages and income inequality. In arriving at this conclusion—which is antithetical to the findings and predictions of recent models—they noted three effects international trade has on the labor market:

  • An increase in local trade exposure reduces average wages and income inequality
  • Regions with more trade saw workers moving toward small business and low-skill jobs
  • Places more open to trade saw an increase in the relevance of small business

Hernandez-Martinez and Merga explained the Spanish data was great for seeing effects, but the data grant was “fantastic” because it gave them access to information that enabled them to test the “why” of their problem.

“We are able to dig deeper and provide a more comprehensive explanation of firms’ behaviors,” Hernandez-Martinez says. “Understanding the root of these changes is important to improving how countries open themselves to the world economy.” ∎

For questions about data purchasing or the grant program, contact Kathy Wu at kathyw@library.rochester.edu. If you are interested in supporting the grant program, contact Pamela Jackson at pamela.jackson@rochester.edu.