Joan Martínez graduated in Economics from Universidad del Pacífico (UP) in 2013 and her first work experience was as a research assistant at UP's Research Center (CIUP), where she did her pre-professional internship. One of her first research projects consisted of analyzing evaluation methodologies of social programs focused on early development (children between 3-5 years old) operating at the national level.
According to Joan, during the period in which she was in her final years of her studies, the Peruvian government had achieved a significant reduction in monetary poverty, so it sought to address multidimensional poverty indicators, increase living standards and position itself as a middle-income country, that is, it was beginning to design public policies to increase access to nutrition services, water, sanitation, and basic rights of the population, which, although no longer poor, still had little access to public services and opportunities.
At that time, she says, the work of many academics at the national level, and of CIUP researchers in particular, consisted of contributing to the design of social programs and their performance indicators based on international benchmark experiences in Latin America, such as Brazil's "Bolsa Familia" or Colombia's "Ser Pilo Paga".
"In retrospect, it has been very gratifying to contribute, albeit in a miniscule way, to this collaboration between the State and academia to consolidate the operation and evaluation of services available to citizens," she stressed.
Labor and education economics
As Joan explains to us, citing the article by economist Raj Chetty (Harvard), Patrick Kline (Berkeley) and co-authors, Where is the land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, the relative income position of our parents (measured, for example, by the income percentile our household is in when growing up) impacts the income we will have as adults. Likewise, educational investments made in schools or the choice of a university or higher education institute have long-term effects, mainly in terms of potential future income, so that - in her opinion - information or opportunities to make good decisions is not always accessible to all young people in Peru.
"These are decisions that society and the State cannot allow to be left to chance, for example, based on the region of Peru where you were born or the level of family income. It is a priority for civil society, academia and the State to create conditions for all young people to achieve their goals with equal opportunities," she said.
In this regard, she added that one of her objectives is to be able to implement sophisticated methodological tools of labor economics to understand and solve problems in developing countries such as ours.
Currently, Joan's research focuses on the issues of social mobility, higher education and equal opportunities. To understand these issues, she has developed, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education's MineduLAB, the educational platform Oportunidades para Todos (Opportunities for All).
This platform, aimed at students and teachers of secondary education in public schools, allows them to collect information on students' perceptions of their plans after finishing their secondary studies and on the guidance provided by teachers to students at this stage, in order to be an input to design tools that allow promoting more equitable access to higher education.
"This is a collaboration that I hope to continue in the coming years to propose public policies that reduce the access barriers to higher education," she said.
Within her experience as a researcher, Joan has had the opportunity to work with Economics professors Pablo Lavado and Gustavo Yamada on the effects of the deregulation of the higher education market initiated in 1997 and its effects on the quality of education, research that today takes on greater relevance given the recent approval of a law that modifies the composition of the board of the Superintendencia Nacional de Educación Superior Universitaria (SUNEDU), which in practice - in the opinion of different specialists - would be a counter-reform of education in the country.
“Since 2014, multiple legal appeals have been filed, economic resources have been invested and media campaigns by unreliable media outlets have been carried out against these changes. If this trend is not reversed, generations of young people who do not acquire sufficient skills during university will continue to be lost because teaching does not meet minimum standards. This is one of the many reasons why the country does not have skilled workers to develop higher value-added industries and we continue to fail to diversify economic growth other than natural resource extraction, services, or tourism," she said.
For Joan, UP was a turning point in her professional life, since both the academic training and the dedication of the professors and teachers were decisive in her university training.
"Professors like Enrique Vásquez and Gustavo Yamada were excellent mentors who motivated me to believe that it is possible to pursue doctoral studies abroad, regardless of the initial barriers we may face. This shows that UP seeks academic excellence and changes the aspirations of its students, allowing them to believe that they are truly capable of leading great changes in the country," she concluded.