From Blugold economics to the U.S. Census Bureau: An economics Ph.D. journey

Victoria Udalova, B.A., economics, '07


After graduating with B.A. in Economics and minor in Mathematics (Summa Cum Laude) from the UWEC in May 2007, I worked as an economist for the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development in the Office of Economic Advisors. At this job, I produced and analyzed employment projections, monitored economic and other trends affecting employment, interpreted labor market trends for a variety of customers, and conducted various economic studies related to workforce issues.

In 2009, while continuing to work part-time, I started graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Economics Department. Over the next six years, I learned economic theory and empirical tools that economists use in their work. My main field in graduate school was empirical microeconomics, specifically focusing on health economics. In my main dissertation chapter, I examined the effects of state laws governing the extent to which nurse practitioners must be overseen by medical doctors in order to practice medicine and prescribe drugs to patients.

After completing my Ph.D. in economics in May 2015, I started my career as an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau produces high quality data on a wide range of demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the U.S. population in its various surveys and censuses. I work at the Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications (CARRA) within Census. CARRA is charged with the strategic re-use of information from third-party data providers as well as federal, state, and local agencies. Researchers within CARRA link these datasets to conduct new research that would not have been otherwise possible. As a Census economist, I am expected to publish in peer-reviewed journals and present at internal seminars and outside conferences.

I am grateful to the thoughtful and caring faculty members at UWEC for preparing me for and encouraging me to pursue a career in economics. I was fortunate to work with Prof. Wayne Carroll on research projects that allowed me to experience first-hand what it’s like to be an applied economist. Prof. Carroll and I collaborated on a research project investigating the determinants and implications of labor force participation decisions by immigrant Hmong men using the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census data. This research experience, in addition to classroom instruction, made me excited to learn more about the field of economics.

For a student who is thinking about majoring in economics, I would like to note that economics is a way of seeing and thinking about the world. It is an exciting field of study and the tools and skills that you learn can be applied to so many things in your life. More and more companies now look for people with statistical and econometric skills to analyze data and make conclusions and recommendations.

For a student who is thinking about graduate school in economics, please take as many advanced math classes as you can while at UWEC (trust me, it will make your life easier later on!) and, if you can, ask a faculty member to work on either a joint research project or advise you on your own independent research project.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the U.S. Census Bureau.