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Florence Wang: using statistical tools to study socioeconomic questions

July 31st, 2020

Why do people buy lottery tickets?

Florence Wang ’21 set out to answer this seemingly simple question in her independent project for the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning’s (CSML) certificate program. Looking at this question deeply, she arrived at some intriguing results that could be used to formulate socioeconomic policies on lotteries, which is seen by some critics as a regressive tax on the poor. Her project garnered the poster award at CSML’s annual poster session, along with the project of John Olaf Hallman ’20.

“I first became interested in this topic because I noticed I would disproportionately see people from lower economic backgrounds, such as blue-collar and immigrant workers, buying lottery tickets,” said Wang, a Princeton School of Public and International Affairs student. “This was true both in Hong Kong - where I am from - as well as in the US. For example, I’d often see immigrant workers lining up to buy lottery tickets at the kiosk on Nassau Street, but I never saw anyone else buying them. I wanted to understand why.”

Wang said she enjoyed conducting her research project and attending her CSML classes. She became interested in pursuing the CSML certificate after taking a class on quantitative social science for her major.

“It’s important to combine quantitative and qualitative analyses to understand social issues more deeply.” she said. “I was initially a little intimidated in pursuing this certificate because I don’t have much of a quantitative background. But there are so many options in the department that you can create a path catered to your skills and interests. In our increasingly data-driven world, it’s important to have a good grasp of numbers and not shy away from data, and taking CSML courses has really helped me with my confidence in that regard.”

After graduation, Wang said she is interested in going to law school or delving into the start-up world. Wang has worked as a summer intern at Sequoia Capital Chinaa venture capital firm. She is currently an intern at BCG Digital Ventures, a corporate investment and incubation firm focused on start-ups.

But first, she must complete her upcoming senior year. Wang, who is also pursuing a certificate in East Asian studies, is interested in studying Chinese politics and civil society for her senior thesis. Like her CSML independent project, she wants to add a data science approach to her research. 

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