Thanks for this post. I found it really insightful and honest!
I'm a recent Canadian b-school graduate just starting to explore the idea of pursuing a career in economic research, particularly in development economics. You have summarized my apprehensions quite adequately, that without the elite undergraduate background and careful planning from day 1 in my mother's womb, the costs might be too great for even a chance of admission into a Top 20 program.
That being said, I would love to hear your advice `given your time at JPAL. I graduated from the #1 business program in Canada with a 3.86 CGPA. I took a smattering of introductory econ, calculus, statistics, and applied math courses like finance and operations research, all As or A+s. After school I started my career in consulting/market research for private and non-profit sector (1.5 years), and then decided that I wanted to switch careers and move into development. Currently I'm volunteering in Nepal, kind of like a Peace Corps volunteer but Canadian. I'm a quasi-research role at a vocational school where I'm designing and administering surveys on gender biases, student satisfaction, tracing graduates, etc. In my free time I've been completing the MicroMasters credential from MIT and JPAL online, and getting 90%+ in all my courses.
Ideally after my time in Nepal and completion of the MicroMasters, I want to land some sort of entry-level RA role like at JPAL, IPA, etc. Is this realistic, given your experience? Or should I be thinking about trying to get accepted into the best MA/MS/MPA/MBA program I can? I don't know if I specifically want to pursue a career in academia as an economist, but I would like my career to be involved in the understanding and delivery of empirical, effective solutions to helping the world's poor.
Thanks for your advice!