Empirical work

The Economics faculty expects that papers in economics (except for purely theoretical ones) will be supported by data.

This may range from the appropriate presentation of tables and graphs to the use of regression analysis or other multivariate statistical techniques. Generally, you will use some data to introduce the reader to the subject. (For example, a paper on the use of monetary aggregates may start by showing differences in the time series for M1, M2 etc.) In addition, you will use data to dissect the relationships among the variables you are considering in your papers. You should refer back to your statistics, and econometrics courses for information on the specific techniques of data analyses that are appropriate in different circumstances.

You need to document data sources fully and describe the exact definitions of your data. For example, if you use data on interest rates, state what type of interest rate(s) you have employed (90-day Treasury bill rate, prime rate, federal funds rate, 20-year corporate bond rate, etc.) and the specific source.

A major statistical source for the United States is the Census Bureau’s annual Statistical Abstract. In addition to its hundreds of tables, it gives detailed references for further investigation in the publications of individual government agencies. For international data, major sources include the publications of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, and the International Labor Organization.

Many data sets are available online, and are appropriate for use in senior theses, and advanced term papers. Various faculty members have data sets such as: the National Longitudinal Survey, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Maine Hospital Discharge Statistics, National Child Care Survey, and China’s Ministry of Labor Statistics. Recent corporate data from Moodys are now available online. The Library has government data sets like the 1990 Census 1/1000 sample. The formats of the data sets are sometimes complex, so allow plenty of time to get them online before you start your analysis.

It is also possible to acquire data sets from other sources. Bates belongs to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), whose archives contain hundreds of data sets that can be specially ordered. The Library has several books that list commercially available data sets (for example, the Gale Directory of Databases). Some data sets are available free of charge on the Internet. If you find you need to order data, talk to your professor early in the semester, so that you can obtain the data and use it in time for your term paper or thesis.