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The Research Assistant (RA) program at the Chicago Fed is a two-year program designed for recent college graduates with a background in economics, math, statistics, or related fields. RAs work with economists on a variety of research projects and provide support for ongoing analysis of the U.S. and global economy and monetary policy, as well as issues related to bank regulation, the payments system, and financial markets. The Federal Reserve is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to supporting and fostering diversity within the broader economics research community.

Qualifications

  • A bachelor's degree or more, with an emphasis on economics, mathematics and statistics
  • Familiarity with programming languages and statistical software packages, such as Matlab, Stata, Python, R, C++, Fortran, SAS, and GAUSS
  • Prior research or classroom experience analyzing data
  • Ability to communicate clearly and work independently

The Work

Current Analysis

RAs work with economists on time-critical analysis of current economic data for vital policy work. The analysis includes estimation of forecasting models, gathering data for reports, and evaluating market developments.

Academic Research Projects

RAs help economists in conducting long-term academic research on a wide range of empirical and theoretical topics. This includes collecting and managing data, developing code for model estimation, and writing and preparing presentations.

Economics: RAs are exposed to the frontier of economic research on an ongoing basis through daily work on long-term research projects and policy-related forecasting, attending seminars, and taking classes at local universities, such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Programming: RAs acquire a wide range of specialized and general programming skills in the course of their tenure. While Matlab and Stata are the two most commonly used tools, other languages such as Python and Julia are also being utilized. RAs also have opportunity to learn parallel computing techniques and work with very large data sets.

The Policymaking Process: The key goal of the Research Department to provide high-quality timely input for monetary policymaking. The RAs play an important role in attaining this goal. In the process, they learn about the modeling and empirical tools for formulating policy-relevant forecasts.

Analysis of High Frequency Data: RAs learn about a variety of data sources, gauge their relative usefulness in answering time-critical questions, and design ways to access this information quickly and reliably.

Writing for Diverse Audiences: RAs are tasked with working on projects for very different target audiences. Some of the projects are very technical and specialized in nature and are geared toward academics. Other projects summarize ongoing economic trends and/or research findings and need to be written for the interested layperson.

The Lifecycle of Academic Research: RAs are exposed to multiple stages of academic research from formulation of the initial idea to subsequent implementation and documentation of the analysis, presentation of the results, submission of the paper for peer review, ensuing revisions, and so on to the beginning of the next project.

What is the work environment like?

Economic Research has a collegial and academic environment that emphasizes learning and teaching at all stages of careers. Members of the Research department collaborate to serve the public good and to challenge and support one another on their assumptions, thinking, and conclusions.

How is the Research department organized?

The department consists of four teams: finance, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and regional analysis. Each of these teams has a distinct focus and a broad research agenda. Economists collaborate widely across teams, both on policy and research.
Read more about the economists and their research

RAs are assigned to a particular team, depending on existing needs and qualifications. An RA typically provides primary research support for one or two economists and is engaged in a number of policy analysis projects that may include economists from different teams.

What are the typical career paths pursued by RAs?

Many former RAs pursue graduate degrees in fields such as economics, law, business administration, or public policy. Recent RAs have attended top-rated graduate programs at universities such as the University of Chicago, UC-Berkeley, Yale, NYU-Stern, Northwestern, Duke, the University of Wisconsin, and Princeton. Several Chicago Fed RAs have been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Former RAs have also accepted challenging and competitive positions elsewhere in the Chicago Fed, the Federal Reserve System and in the private sector.

How flexible are work hours?

RAs are expected to be present during regular banking business hours: however, regular schedules can be modified to accommodate class attendance.

What benefits does the Chicago Fed Offer?

Health, dental and vision insurance, commuter and health club benefits, and a 401(k) savings plan.

I have a master’s degree. Should I apply?

Absolutely. Candidates with a master’s degree are able to further develop their skills for future doctoral studies or to prepare for a transition to other career tracks.

Are there other opportunities for undergraduates?

The Chicago Fed offers a summer internship program. The Research department program emphasizes advanced assignments with opportunities for summer interns to enhance their skills through critical financial analysis, research and writing, and formal presentations. It is ideal for students, especially rising seniors, interested in applying for the RA position after graduation. More information is available at the summer internship page.

What are the U.S. Residency requirements for this position?

Bank policy specifies that candidates must be:

  • U.S. citizens
  • U.S. nationals or
  • U.S.permanent residents who intend to apply for naturalization within six months of being eligible to do so.

What if I want to be a Research Assistant in a different location?

Research Assistants are needed in programs throughout the Federal Reserve System. Please check out the System RA page to apply.

When and how do I apply?

We are currently accepting applications for the Research Assistant program. Apply now.

Our Studies

After leaving the Chicago Fed most RAs go on to graduate school. Many pursue a Ph.D. in economics, such as Jon Davis (University of Chicago) and Christine Ostrowski (Princeton). Wenfei Du is a student at Stanford’s graduate program in statistics.

 
Jon Davis
Microeconomics

 

  “I was a Research Assistant (RA) in the Chicago Fed’s microeconomic group from June 2009 until I started graduate school at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy in September 2012. The research experience I gained while working at the Fed was an invaluable component of my academic training. As a research assistant, I worked on papers that went on to be published in top economic journals, like the American Economic Review and the Journal of Political Economy. I also co-authored several articles which appeared in peer-reviewed academic and Chicago Fed publications. Beyond just helping me master a variety of statistical tools that are crucial for applied research, the experience of working closely with economists taught me how to think about and organize an academic research project — skills that helped me finish my Ph.D. in four years (the median is 6 years). Perhaps most importantly, working as an RA was a lot of fun and fostered many great relationships. Many of my colleagues and mentors from my time as an RA are now my friends and co-authors. After completing my Ph.D., I became a post-doc in the University of Chicago economics department. I will be on the academic job market in 2017-18.”

Wenfei Du
Regional Analysis
  “As an research assistant in the regional group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, I was given the opportunity to collaborate directly with economists in formulating theoretical models and to handle empirical work. This included work on several projects on the automotive industry, aimed at determining factors behind supplier location choice and analyzing fuel efficiency improvements over time. Another project looked at city wage growth decomposition with city-time factors. My involvement in the research process on each of these projects has provided me with an excellent foundation for my graduate study in statistics, greatly improving my ability to think critically about problems that arise as well as to communicate ideas. In addition, working with economic data has enhanced my understanding of the applications of statistical methodology, which has impacted my current research agenda in applied econometrics.“
headshot of chrissy ostrowski sept 2016
Christine Ostrowski 
Macroeconomics

  “Many students have trouble with the abrupt switch from coursework to independent research that occurs in the third year of graduate school. The Chicago Fed was the perfect place for me to get a head start on this transition. When I first arrived, I helped economists with their own work, asking lots of questions and learning coding skills. I attended seminars several times a week, joined a reading group with other RAs and took classes at University of Chicago (the Fed covered tuition). I then began co-authoring with economists on research and started learning how to direct my own research. I presented co-authored papers at the Fed lunch seminar and at other conferences, including the SED meetings in Seoul, South Korea. I worked closely enough with economists to get multiple letters of recommendation, which allowed me to apply to schools I never otherwise could have considered. Having been undecided on which direction to take in economics when I first came to the Fed, I strongly recommend the RA program for anyone who is interested in economic research but wants to learn more before applying to graduate school.”

Our Careers

Some RAs become professors in the fields of economics or finance. Andrew Goodman-Bacon is an assistant professor of economics at Vanderbilt. Sometimes RAs pursue a career within the Federal Reserve System. Scott Brave is a policy economist in the Regional Analysis group at the Chicago Fed’s research department.


headshot of andrew bacon sept 2016
Andrew Goodman-Bacon
Assistant Professor, Economics
Vanderbilt University
  “My time at the Chicago Fed played a crucial role in my preparation for graduate school as well as my research career. I came to the Fed with plenty of ideas, but limited research experience. In my two years as an RA, I gained many practical skills from my senior colleagues and fellow RAs. I pored over Stata code, took (funded) courses in other programming languages, learned about new empirical methods, used unique restricted data and gained valuable experience producing and conveying empirical economic research. The experience greatly strengthened my graduate school application, and I rely on the substantive lessons I learned there almost every day as an assistant professor of economics at Vanderbilt University. For example, Leslie McGranahan and I wrote a short paper estimating the effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on expenditures. Almost ten years later, I still referee papers on the EITC, and my understanding of its structure and effects inform my current research on the history of social and health policy in the U.S. I came to the Fed excited about economic research and ready to learn and left with a host of new skills and a strong start to my academic career in economics.
photo scott brave careers page
Scott Brave
Senior Policy Economist, Regional Analysis
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
  “Working as an research assistant at the Chicago Fed was both one of the most exciting and challenging positions of my young career. It is one thing to sit in a classroom for four years learning about economic theories, but a completely different experience to see those theories then debated and put into practice when it comes to setting monetary policy. The skills that I attained, the connections that I made, and the insights that I gained put my career on the path that it remains on to this day. For someone interested in pursuing graduate studies in economics (or statistics and many other related social sciences for that matter), there is no better proving ground before you take that next step.”

Two-Thirds of our Research Assistants co-author publications during their time with our teams. Below is just a sample of the most recent publications.

* denotes a Research Assistant

Chicago Fed Letter and Economic Perspective Articles

Finance

Thomas Haasl*, Anna Paulson, and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2018, “Understanding the Demand for Currency at Home and Abroad,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 396.

Thomas Haasl*, Anna Paulson, and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2018, “The Structure of Federal Reserve Liabilities,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 395.

Thomas B. King and Timothy Larach*, 2016, “Corporate Cash Flow and Its Uses,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 368.

Insurance Initiative

Andy Polacek*, 2018, “Reinvesting After the Crisis: Changes in the Fixed-Income Portfolios of Life Insurers,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 390.

Alejandro Drexler, Thanases Plestis*, and Richard J. Rosen, 2017, “How Much Risk Do Variable Annuity Guarantees Pose to Life Insurers?,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 384.

Daniel Hartley, Anna Paulson, and Katerina Powers*, 2017, “What Explains the Decline in Life Insurance Ownership?,” Economic Perspectives, Vol. 41, No. 8.

Financial Markets Group

Rebecca Lewis*, John McPartland, and Rajeev Ranjan, 2017, “Blockchain and Financial Market Innovation,” Economic Perspectives, Vol. 41, No. 7.

John McPartland and Rebecca Lewis*, 2017, “The Goldilocks Problem: How to Get Incentives and Default Waterfalls ‘Just Right,’Economic Perspectives, Vol. 41, No. 1.

Rebecca Lewis*, 2017, “Central Counterparty Risk Management: Beyond Default Risk,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 389.

Macroeconomics

Lorenz J. Jarass, Anthony E. Tokman*, and Mark L. J. Wright, 2017, “The Burden of Taxation in the United States and Germany,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 382.

Jonas D. M. Fisher and Christopher Russo*, 2017, “Recent Declines in the Fed’s Longer-Run Economic Projections,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 375.

Microeconomics

Gene Amromin, Mariacristina De Nardi, and Karl Schulze*, 2018, “Household Inequality and the Consumption Response to Aggregate Real Shocks,” Economic Perspectives, Vol. 42, No. 1.

Gene Amromin, Mariacristina De Nardi, and Karl Schulze*, 2018, “Inequality and Recessions,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 392.

Ross Cole*, Luojia Hu, and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2017, “When It Comes to Wage Growth, the Measure Matters,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 387.

Mariacristina De Nardi and Sharada Dharmasankar*, 2017, “Female Labor Supply and Why Women Need to Be Included in Economic Models,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 380.

Sharada Dharmasankar* and Bhashkar Mazumder, 2016, “Have Borrowers Recovered from Foreclosures during the Great Recession?,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 370.

Regional Analysis

William A. Strauss and Thomas Haasl*, 2018, “Economic Outlook Symposium: Summary of 2017 Results and 2018 Forecasts,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 391.

Scott A. Brave and David Kelley*, 2017, “Introducing the Chicago Fed’s New Adjusted National Financial Conditions Index,” Chicago Fed Letter, No. 386.

William A. Strauss and Thomas Haasl*, 2017, “Economy to Cruise Near Speed Limit in 2017 and 2018 Even as Auto Sales Downshift," Chicago Fed Letter, No. 381.

Working Papers

Daniel Aaronson, Jonathan Davis, and Karl Schulze*, 2018, “Internal Immigrant Mobility in the Early 20th Century: Experimental Evidence from Galveston Immigrants,” working paper, No. 2018-04, February.

Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, and Karl Schulze*, 2017, “The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries,” working paper, No. 2017-14, August.

Tomas Breach*, Stefania D’Amico, and Athanasios Orphanides, 2016, “The Term Structure and Inflation Uncertainty,” working paper, No. 2016-22, December.

Robert Barsky, Theodore Bogusz, and Matthew Easton*, 2016, “Interest Rates or Haircuts? Prices Versus Quantities in the Market for Collateralized Risky Loans,” working paper, No. 2016-19, November.

Policy Discussion Papers

Rebecca Lewis*, John McPartland, and Rajeev Ranjan, 2017, “Blockchain and Financial Market Innovation,” policy discussion paper, No. 2017-03, June.

Rebecca Lewis* and John McPartland, 2017, “Non-Default Loss Allocation at CCPs,” policy discussion paper, No. 2017-02, April.

Meet Research Assistants



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