Meet five women who made their passion for numbers count in a fulfilling career
Danit Kanal — Special Assistant to the Chief Economist, Bureau of Economic Analysis
Schooling Undergraduate degree + master’s in economics
Years of Experience 9
National Average Salary
federal government: $70,000–$80,000
private sector: $100,000
What an economist does:
Economists do different things at different places. Here at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a standard economist collects data and then calculates parts of the US gross domestic product (GDP).
When the estimates of all the different parts of the GDP come together from all the economists working on it, we can send out a report saying, “This is how much money the economy has” in different ways — how much money was spent, how much is in different sectors, how much people spent, how much businesses spent.
There aren’t very many pure economics jobs outside of government agencies, but you can work in a bank and do monetary models or forecast economic stuff. These jobs are always more analytical — and I’ve seen such jobs in many settings, including a position to forecast statistics with Major League Baseball. And, of course, a lot of economists do research or teach.
Hitting the books:
I wanted to go into business, but I got engaged one month into college. Since we were moving to Baltimore, where my husband was in Ner Israel, I figured I’d transfer to the University of Maryland, but they didn’t have a business major. The guidance counselor told me that most people who want a certification in business major in economics. I said, “I have no idea what economics is, but let’s try it.” Some classes were fairly difficult but I kept going.
I earned my master’s in applied economics while working my first job (my employer didn’t pay for my whole degree, but did pay for many classes).
Working my way in
When I was a junior at college, my dad said, “You’re in a really good place to look at cool federal jobs, why don’t you go to a job fair in D.C.?” So my husband and I went to a job fair. Of course, every FBI booth and major agency booth was swamped with people throwing résumés — you couldn’t get in anywhere. On my way out, there was this nice little girl in a very empty booth, so I went over to her and said hi, and she said, “We have a great internship program.” I applied, and that’s how I became an intern research assistant for the chief economist.
All in a day’s work:
During my first three years, I estimated the gross domestic product of light trucks (as determined by weight — not big trucks, not small cars) in the United States. I could tell you how many of those cars were bought and sold, used or new, by consumers and businesses every month. I’d get all the data by model: this many Honda Accords were sold this month, for an average cost of X, and who bought them — private individuals, businesses, or government. I’d do this for every model car. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as adding it all up. It can get complicated, and there’s a ton of methodology. (There are used cars, for example, and you need to figure out how they depreciate, or what you do with the sale of a used car from a business to an individual.)
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 615)