Student Spotlight: Jack Keefer

Award-winning student, who’s studying the impacts of social media on mental health.

Jack Keefer is last year’s winner of the annual Excellence in Economics Award, presented to our top graduating senior in the Orfalea College of Business Economics Department. He earned his B.S. in Economics this past spring and is currently enrolled in the M.S. Quantitative Economics program at Cal Poly.

Jack’s senior project was selected as the Outstanding Senior Project in his class. For the undertaking, Jack surveyed students at a California high school about their feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as numerous other aspects of their lifestyle. He found that greater social media use led to higher levels of anxiety.

“The subject is important because social media is such a big part of students’ lives now, much more so now than even five years ago when I was a high school student. It’s a growing problem that anecdotally affects many students, but I found there was very little research on the topic, and I thought I had the ability to do better than what had already been done. Social media causes people to compare themselves to an ‘ideal’ that they can’t possibly live up to, and even though most people know that, it’s good to have data to back it up so it’s not just a hunch that we all have.”

He is following up his senior project with a randomized experiment across multiple high schools to further test whether social media use contributes to feelings of anxiety and depression. He hopes to submit his findings for publication in an economics journal. Jack is also currently applying to Ph.D. programs in Economics to begin the next academic year.

“I would like to stay in academia and get a position as a tenure-track professor doing research.  My interest is in labor economics with a secondary application in econometrics. I like the collection and processing of data, and labor economics is an important field with future issues related to automation and the changing labor market.”

Good luck in your future studies, Jack!