Empirical Papers for Undergraduate Statistics Students

Once undergraduates have learned the basics of interpreting regression results, we would like to introduce them to the world of economics research papers. Reading these papers will help reinforce the statistical concepts, and also we want them to get access to the insights in the literature.

Many empirical papers in economics are too long or too difficult to assign to undergraduates, especially if the course is focused more on analytics than economics specifically. Here I provide materials and instructions for teaching two published econ articles to undergraduates. Assume the students have learned the basics of interpreting a regression model (perhaps from a course textbook) but have had few opportunities to apply theses skills or engage in scientific literature.

“The Effects of Attendance on Student Learning in Principles of Economics” is only 4 pages long! Students do not need to read past page 7 of “My Reference Point, Not Yours” to answer the reading guide questions. So, these readings can be assigned outside of class, but I did some of the reading during our class period.

Handing out printed copies of at least one of the papers and my guided questions can make a good classroom activity. If students do not have experience reading tables of regression results, it can be useful to do it together in person.

The questions in the reading guide help students to identify the main variables and hypotheses. Then, students are asked to pull specific results from the tables in the papers. You can customize this list of questions by deleting lines if you do not want to discuss issues like non-linear effects or the null hypothesis.

I provide links below. First is the reading guide with about 30 short-answer questions about the two articles.

  1. Link to download the reading guide that goes with both papers, starting with the shorter one.

2. This is a web link to download the Effects of Attendance paper. (4 pages long and the topic is relatable to undergraduates)

3. Two web sources for “My Reference Point, Not Yours” (15 pages in total in the JEBO manuscript, but students do not need to read past page 7 for this exercise, and they can skip the Literature Review section)

JEBO link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167268120300299

SSRN working paper link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3434182