Participating in undergraduate research projects helped Alvaro Sánchez, CLA ’17, discover his passion for applying data analysis to helping the underserved. Today, Sánchez conducts qualitative and quantitative studies that inspire inclusive social policy and strengthen equitable economic development.
Remembering the forgotten
In his current role with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Sánchez is tasked with analyzing the economic impact of “benefit cliffs”—when families lose public assistance due to a career advancement, which actually causes them to be financially worse off than they were before.
Prior to accepting his Atlanta position, which he started in January 2022, Sánchez applied his skills at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where he produced applied economics papers on topics spanning equity, infrastructure, job creation and workforce development.
That’s where he conducted his most significant research to date—a study concerning broadband access and how it is limited for rural and low- and moderate-income communities, particularly in Pennsylvania. The first paper related to the research was published in early March 2020, and with the pandemic looming, it became even more important—and garnered media attention.
Driving his work always, Sánchez said, are the issues that surround “easily forgotten” low- and moderate-income communities.
“I am trying to solve the pervasive inequities related to poverty and economic insecurity, to put it in a nutshell,” he said.
A deep dive
Sánchez’s interest in research and data analysis was sparked early in his undergraduate career, when the saxophone-playing, former music education major undertook a study with the Department of Psychology’s Robert Weisberg about cognitive processes, creativity and jazz. For his efforts, he earned a Diamond Research Scholars Program award, which provided him with a stipend to support his research and came in handy during what he described as a financially rough time.
But one of his most transformational experiences, said Sánchez, was the opportunity to assist Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology Laurence Steinberg on a study investigating the long-term consequences of formal and informal processing on first-time juvenile offenders.
“My work with Dr. Weisberg showed me my love for researching, and the Steinberg study showed me that I really cared about social issues,” Sánchez said. “It was those two things that made me want to dive deeper into being a social scientist.”
Founded in Philly
After Temple, Sánchez completed his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Staying in Philadelphia for graduate school was important to Sánchez, as was getting his career started here.
“I almost feel indebted to this city that’s given me so much,” Sánchez said, referring to the internships he held at the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the Chamber of Commerce, and adding that one of the best reasons to go to Temple is its location in Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia provides so many opportunities outside the classroom to apply the knowledge that you’re learning in the classroom,” he said.