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Joy Wang ’20

Joy Wang ’20

“I was drawn to Johns Hopkins mainly because of its academic rigor and small class size, which to me meant a tight-knit community and more individualized attention from faculty. I applied to college hoping to major in international relations, so the strong international studies department at Hopkins added to its appeal.”

Joy double-majored in economics and international studies, and minored in French. “I didn’t become an Economics major until the spring semester of my sophomore year. I had very little exposure to the discipline prior to college and took my very first economics class as part of the requirements for International Studies. I decided to double major because I realized economics would help me understand the underlying logic behind many issues relevant to international relations.”

Joy’s favorite economics class was Labor Economics taught by Professor Husain. “This was the first class in which I was exposed to empirical economics research. We read seminal papers on important policy issues such as minimum wage, higher education, and discrimination. Professor Husain showed us the connection between public policy and economics research. In the end, my senior thesis turned out to be a labor economics piece!”

For Joy, economics provided a clear analytical framework with general applicability. “Being fluent in economics gives you the ability to strip complex issues down to their core and construct simple models that highlight the fundamentals. This skill makes you a better critical thinker and more precise writer.”

Joy spent her senior fall as an Aitchison Public Service Fellow. In addition to taking courses in public policy, she worked as a research intern in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute in D.C. where she learned how to manipulate data using STATA.

This skill proved useful when writing a senior thesis on the effects of children on women’s occupational status, advised by professors Morgan and Husain. “The topic was inspired by my interest in quantifying gender inequality in the labor market. It was one of the best learning experiences I had in college. It felt transformational in the sense in that I went into the process not knowing how to conduct empirical economics research and came out feeling much more confident in my quantitative skills. The writing process was both fun and intellectually stimulating, and really helped me grow as a researcher.”

Immediately after graduation, Joy worked as a research intern at a tobacco control policy nonprofit in D.C., a position that further allowed her to develop research skills. In the fall, she will be attending Harvard Law School. Ultimately, she hopes to work in a policy area that sits at the intersection of law and economics. 

Joy’s advice for potential majors is to know that economics, as a discipline, can feel a little theoretical at the beginning. “Try out lower-level non-foundational classes to get a preview of what economics looks like in practice. Then write a senior thesis if you can!  In the process of writing a thesis, you are challenged to piece together and build on the theories you have learned over the years. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve come!”