Economics is the name of the game for Levitt Fellow Tamim Akiki '08 (Kfardebian, Lebanon). This summer, the native of Lebanon is conducting a study titled "Do Home Country Experiences Influence Economic Outcomes of Immigrants in the United States?"
"I'm looking at the conditions of the home countries of immigrants to the U.S., such as quality of education, literacy rates and gross domestic product," Akiki explained. "I am then determining whether there is a correlation between the overall state of the country and how the immigrants do economically when they come to the U.S."
Akiki, an economics major, is working with Associate Professor of Economics Paul Hagstrom. As a foreign college student in this country, Akiki said, "I kept hearing that certain immigrants really succeed here, and I've heard about many successful Lebanese people in the U.S." He added that he was first interested in the topic of his study because of the extensive Lebanese community in the U.S. and "I wanted to find out if the reason why certain people do better than others is related to home country effects or if it is solely dependent on personal characteristics."
Akiki, who is not an immigrant to the U.S. and whose family still lives in Lebanon, said the title of his study is only half the question. "Another major part of the question is whether there is a time effect involved, because most of the people I see who are successful are second-generation immigrants," he said. "There is a certain economic mentality taught by parents to their children, such as hard work ethic, motivation, ambition, what one wants from life."
In addition to studying this topic through an economic scope, Akiki is also taking social factors into account. One social factor he is considering is the native language of the immigrants, because, he said, this affects the way one learns English, which is relative to economic success. Other social factors include demographic information, such as family members, age and occupation once they arrive in the U.S.
Other than reading economic and linguistic literature and collecting data, Akiki has also had to learn how to use certain computer programs in order to manipulate his data properly, which he does on an ongoing task. Later this summer, Akiki will attend a globalization conference and then return home to Lebanon for the rest of the summer, where he will write his report.
Akiki, though only a rising sophomore, is using this 10-week fellowship as a preview to what he hopes will be a career filled with economic research. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school to study economics, and to become an economics professor.
To enhance student research around issues of public affairs, the Levitt Center funds student-faculty research through its Levitt Research Fellows Program. The program is open to all students who wish to spend the summer working in collaboration with a faculty member on an issue related to public affairs.
Students receive a stipend and some expense money, and spend 10 weeks in the summer working intensively with a faculty mentor. Those selected for the program are required to provide a written assessment of their work at the end of the summer, and also give a public presentation of their findings to the Hamilton community, or local high school classes through the Levitt Scholars program.
-- by Katherine Trainor