In search of Adam Smith – Blog 3 Tadhg Looram, Anna Shostya

There have been some major developments since my last blog entry. In blog 2 I talked at great length about how we were going to focus on our macro study and postponed our Micro study. We collected all the necessary data and ran all the Ordinary Least square regressions, however it was completely inconclusive, not one of our chosen variables exerted any influence on the number of Chinese students studying in the US. We asked ourselves, what we could do. On the one hand we have a very interesting survey study that needs some tuning and on the other we have a lame macro model.

Once again we decided to pivot, and go back to our micro study. We gave our study a lot of thought and with the aid of our literature review; we identified a whole in the existing literature and an opportunity for our study. According to our literature, the majority of studies done so far establish exogenous push and pull factors that influence Chinese students to study abroad. For instance, the increase in cultural acceptance between China and the US as well as increase in trade make it easier for Chinese students to gain visas. Furthermore rise in disposable income in China allow parents to send what is often their only kid to study abroad. What is missing is the students intrinsic motivation to study abroad. Our survey asked several questions that would estimate such motivation and what we really want to know is if our Chinese students desire to pursue education is motivated by monetary, self-serving incentives (like western students.). Or do they choose to study to pursue more altruistic goals: self-learning, obligations to family and society, based on Confucius teachings.

Now we are on to something! To answer our question we built three models: the first measures the probability that our students would study abroad at an undergraduate level, based on our Explanatory variables. The second model is the same but at a graduate level and the third measures the probability that they want to study at a graduate level period.

Time was of the essence, we had to have it all done before Friday, for we were to present at the Eastern Economic Association. We managed to pull it off and found interested significant results, I will refrain from discussing them here, I would prefer to keep them for the final blog and presentation.

I have learned a great deal so far; I’ve learned to do work independently and be my own critic and instructor. I say this not because Dr. Shostya wasn’t available but because she refused to hold my hand and treat me like a subordinate. Despite the gap in our knowledge and experience she treated me like a partner and expected such results, it was up to me to be produce and from that I learned to be my own biggest critic. I also had to be very flexible to last minute changes, which is hard to roll with when you have a big dead line 5 days away. Last but not least I became more aware the importance of preparation. When preparing for the EEA (eastern economic conference) never have I scrutinized a power point nor rehearsed the presentation as much as I did.

In search of Adam Smith – Blog 2 Tadhg Looram, Anna Shostya

So far we’ve made great progress but have also faced setbacks. Before I elaborate, allow me to recap our study; it is a two dimensional study on Chinese undergraduate and graduate students studying in the US.  Our case study is one of those two dimensions; we collected 150 surveys from students at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. The study seeks to determine student’s motivation to study abroad. The questions were formulated such that we could generate two types of student profiles: those that are motivated by materialistic goals and those motivated by knowledge, familial and societal values.

In my last blog, I elaborated on the survey questions and the process of tabulating the data. Since then, Dr. Shostya and I analyzed the figures and built summary tables. We found that the average student in our study were sophomore/junior Females, with an average GPA of 3.3. They come from middle class families, with parents that do not speak English and have little schooling.  On average they have not travelled outside of china, and do not watch American programs. There is a fifty fifty split whether they want to purse graduate school. for those who want to go to graduate school, the majority chose the United states. From our observations we’ve concluded that our sample reflected the typical female students with minimal western exposure. Regarding their motivation for a college education, we found even more interesting results. When we asked the respondents their reasons for obtaining an undergraduate degree, 59% gave a job related response, while 25% gave virtuous responses. However when we asked the same respondents their reasons for wanting to attend grad school, 71% gave virtuous responses, while 24% gave job related responses. In the short run, it appears our samples view education as a means to achieve their material goals. However in the long run, they view education as a tool to better themselves as well as their societies. Both Dr. Shostya and I were intrigued about our initial findings, and sought out to further investigate our data.

We planned to run regressions to determine if our sample’s willingness to study abroad is correlated to any factors found in our survey. For instance we could regress  the students willingness to going to study abroad against their parents English speaking capabilities, their family income, and/or number of times they’ve travelled abroad. Building our model was difficult because a lot of the data is binary. Yherefore I had to learn how to build probit models: models where the dependent variable can only take two values. In our case, the values for our dependent variable would have been 1: willing to study abroad and 0: not willing to study abroad. Before engaging in our regression, Dr. Shosyta and I sought out advice from Dr. Niu, the directress of the Confucius Institute. Being a psychology professor that specializes in experimental psychology, we asked her to look at our surveys and give us some feedback. We walked away from that meeting having realized our survey were not as accurate as we had hoped. According to Dr. Niu, we built a house survey and did not apply the proper methodology. She advised us to rethink and redo our survey, that way they would yield more accurate data. So far, this is the greatest draw back we face. At this point in time, we are not sure whether or not the data from our case study are valid enough to be incorporated in our research paper.

We may have to focus solely on the second dimension of our study; the socio and economic pull and push factors that determine the number of Chinese undergraduates and graduates studying in the USA.  In my last blog I discussed the strenuous process of data mining. Since then We have changed a lot of indicators an mined for even more data. Let me now elaborate on our final indicators. We plan on building three models: one with graduates as our dependent variable, another with Undergraduate, and the last with both. Our regressors depend on the models. Our Undergraduate model has the following as it’s independent: Exchange rate, Human capital index based on years of schooling, government expenditure on education, exports/imports, GDP per capita, GNP per capita, internet penetration, number of divorces and urbanization. For our graduate and combined model (graduate and undergraduate), we used the following: Exchange rates, share of household consumption, Chinese people contracted abroad, exports/imports, GDP per capita, GNP per capita, Internet penetration, number of divorces and Urbanization.  I will end this blog like I ended my first; At this point in time the data has been collected, what awaits  now are the regressions.


In search of Adam Smith – Blog 1 Tadhg Looram, Anna Shostya

China understood the value of education early on.  Confucius who was born during the Zhou dynasty (551 BC), laid the philosophical principles that shaped Chinese culture and affected the way Chinese think of education and its role in one’s advancement. The implementation of the civil service examination system later on was one of the major Chinese educational achievements.  It was a means of recruiting government officials not through familial/social connections, but based on academic merit. These early Confucius principles, as well as a rigorous educational system, to a large extent have shaped China’s culture and continue shaping the way people think and behave in China.  At the same time, China’s economy has been moving fast toward capitalism, free market, and the “invisible hand,” the ideas that were propagated by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations.

This research attempts to determine whether or not Chinese educated youth who are going to study abroad have retained Confucian Ideals or perhaps they adopted Adam Smith’s principles of self-love and interest.  Hence the title: In search of Adam Smith; socio-economic factors influencing Chinese students decision to study abroad. The purpose of this study is to attempt to show the existence of a cultural identity struggle among Chinese college students who study or are thinking about studying in the United States.  We decided to explore this issue both on a micro and macro level.  In particular, we planned to do the following:

1) A micro case study of students at the University of Shanghai University of Science and Technology.

2) A macro study of measuring the number of granted F1,J1 Visas to both Chinese undergraduate and graduate students.

Over the summer, my fellow classmates and I traveled to Shanghai (under Dr. Shostya’s guidance) where we took courses for a week at the USST, Shanghai, and also traveled to other cities in China. While there, Dr. Shostya and I created a survey that we then distributed to the Chinese students she taught. These students are enrolled in a joint program between USST and Queens College, so they all speak English.  The purpose of the survey was to create a profile of the students at USST and determine their willingness to study abroad for grad school.  The survey contained only 10 questions, both open ended and close ended.  I learned the importance of the visual quality of a survey, the ethical issues involved, and the problems associated with respondents whose language is other than English.

The biggest struggle when creating our surveys was how to properly phrase our questions. Every question in a survey should have a clear purpose; what exactly does it measure in the study? In other words there should be no wasted question. Also, because our students were ESL students, it was very difficult to phrase the questions in a way they would understand them and be willing to respond honestly. For instance Question 6: Name ONE most importance reason you chose to get a college degree? This question was meant to measure the personal incentives of the students. We constructed it in such a way to anticipate short/one-word responses. From these responses we would then easily create categories and compare them. When analyzing the responses I realized the question was not properly understood. Several respondents gave plural reasons for going to university. It made it difficult for me to accurately create a key for comparative purposes. These are but just a few examples of what I’ve learned while making the surveys. If I had to narrow down one big lesson from it, it’s that simplicity and clarity are key.

All in all we collected a sample of 150 students. We then proceeded to enter the raw data into an excel sheet.  While converting the data it occurred to me that some of it was qualitative, for example one question asked to rate on a scale of 0-5 (0 being not important at all and 5 being extremely important) how important 4 factors were in there decision to go to University. In order to quantify the data we had to create a conversion key.

For the following 3 weeks we tackled the second part of our study — the macro portion of the study, which seeks to determine the factors that exert influence on the number of Chinese students (both undergraduate and graduate) studying in the US. We decided to do a time series analysis over 30 years, collecting data from 1979-2013. As I’ve stated above, our dependent variable is the numbers of Chinese students.

I learned that the biggest issue while mining for data is to make sure that the data are compatible and reliable. We found numerous sources with inconsistent information. For instance, in the year 2000 the China Statistical Year Book recorded 38000 students studying abroad, while Unesco Institute of Statistic reported 165250, the discrepancy is more than twice as much! Furthermore, based on the same data from 1985-2000 the number of Chinese students studying in the USA is significantly larger than all the students studying abroad, which is another extremely annoying inconsistency. Thus we concluded that the data were not properly recorded, making the Chinese Statistical Yearbook less of a reliable source than we hoped for.

The issue of inconsistency was not felt when mining data for our independent variables. Some of the data, however, were missing.  Out of the 19 variables, we only had 8 with full data set (34 points).  I quickly grew frustrated and started asking myself; when do I cut my losses and stop looking? I knew I was wasting time when I unintentionally found myself going back to my initial sources, it was as if the internet was telling me to stop! I expressed my disappointed in my ability to mine/find data to Dr. Shostya. We concluded that it’s possible that that data is simply not available “for free”.

We’ve yet to run regressions but I very much look forward to seeing if our labor will bare any fruit, or If we have scratch our variables and start all over, let’s hope for the former.