One of the most difficult challenges of starting senior projects this time of year is choosing a topic. Nevertheless, by taking a more interdisciplinary approach, many students across all majors have learned how to present their interests and passions into real world solutions. Using econometric methodologies, involving economic and statistical model equations to estimate the relationship between variables, the students in the Economics department are able to predict an outcome and forecast future events.
By learning to draw connections between different disciplines, Economics major Mirka Pojoy analyzed how food labeling, among other factors, affects consumer trust.
When the time came to choose a topic for her Economics senior presentation, Pojoy, an animal welfare activist and vegetarian, was interested in measuring the patterns of the increasing demand for “animal-friendly” food products. “I learned about different marketing strategies used in the marketplace and how it can help promote animal welfare.”
Pojoy created an economic model where she ran a regression analysis, inputting data from a survey determining whether consumers were willing to change their usual shopping place and/or willing to pay additional premiums to factors for animal friendly products. After running regressions through her model, accounting for variables, such as the impact of consumers’ background knowledge, their perceived responsibility, product labeling, and consumer demographics on consumers’ behavioral willingness and willingness to pay for Farm Animal Welfare (FAW)-friendly products, Pojoy found what variables accounted for greater rate of consumption.
“I found a lot of patterns from pre-existing literature,” Pojoy said. “I found that those who were self-employed (versus manual workers) were more willing to pay more. Also women seemed more likely to pay a higher price in the U.S. Overall, organic or animal-friendly food labels were the most significant factor.”
Geographical region was a variable applied by Pojoy not used in previous literature regarding consumers willingness to pay for animal-friendly food products. “I accounted for where respondents live — villages, small or middle-sized towns, and large towns — because it seemed an important determinant for behavioral willingness,” Pojoy said. “People who live in large towns and cities have easier access to information on animal welfare compared to people living in rural areas or villages.”
As a consumer of animal-friendly products, Pojoy reflected on how her results related to her observations. “I am in the process of becoming a vegan and I see how marketing strategies can be used to promote change, which I find really interesting,” Pojoy said. “As a college student, I see education and access to information as a motivator in consumer patterns. I have learned a lot about the treatment of animals and the commercialization of food through my classes, by reading, and in the promotion of animal-friendly products in the media.”
As a soon-to-be graduate, Pojoy has come to find that her research skills will serve her well in the field of economic analytics. “I used the program SEDA for this project as well as for two other projects,” Pojoy said. “My goal is to get a job related to analysis and [that] they require SEDA. I feel more prepared and a better candidate for jobs related to analytics because I took econometrics and i have a lot of experience in it.”