The Number Cruncher
Patrick Guyer crunches numbers, focusing on the United States. It’s not the typical occupation one would expect of someone holding a degree in international affairs from the Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA), though students have been quietly developing impressive quantitative skills. “Everything I know about statistics and quantitative analysis—skills I use every day—I learned in the classes I took at Milano,” Guyer says. “It was like my boot camp.”
His training has since come in handy. Currently, Guyer is the chief statistician for the Social Science Research Council, a nonprofit social science organization promoting international research for public good.
Guyer took an unusual path to his current position as a statistician studying the United States. When first looking into a graduate degree, the native Mainer sought education that would complement a career in international development, which typically focuses on qualitative analysis and development theory. He initially chose The New School because of the university’s history of political engagement. “I wanted something that was wildly progressive,” he says, “where I would be among people who shared my basic values.”
At GPIA, Guyer was encouraged to broaden his skill set by enrolling in an introductory quantitative methods class at Milano The New School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. “While I was getting great exposure to some of most pressing issues in the field through practitioners at GPIA, I wanted to supplement this with a base of hard skills,” he says.
It wasn’t an easy A class. “All the Milano students [who are required to take the quantitative classes as part of their curriculum] thought I was nuts—completely crazy—for taking stats as an elective,” says Guyer. But it was foundation on which he has since built his early career.
While a student, Guyer worked as a research assistant for Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a development economist and contributor to the UN Development Programme and professor of international affairs. “This was really a turning point for me,” he said. “The statistical analysis I was doing for questions pertaining to human rights and development showed me just how important the data side is in these topics.” This experience led to a three-month UNICEF consultancy position soon after graduation, followed by a permanent role with the Social Science Research Council.
“Most of the tools in my toolkit came from my education at The New School,” said says Guyer. He doesn’t mean just the statistics training he picked up at Milano. “Much of the international development theory taught at GPIA comes into play even in the U.S.,” he says. “A lot of this theory applies to the vast disparities in this country.”
Guyer was part of a three-person team to publish this year’s Measure of America report, a modified version of the UN’s global Human Development Index. Researchers update the report every two years, comparing employment data, growth across metropolitan areas, and more. This year’s edition, “Halve the Gap,” analyzes the conditions of 16-to-24-year-olds across major metropolitan areas in the U.S. The report finds that nearly 15 percent of youth are not in school or in work and are thus disconnected from the economic and social system. “People between the ages of 16 and 24 are at a critical period that will determine the rest of their adult lives,” says Guyer. “Young people who have long periods of disconnect never really recover in terms of life time earnings and opportunities.”
Guyer is optimistic about a few possible solutions despite the evidence that 5.8 million youth are neither working nor studying. “We need to start looking at the whole life cycle,” he explains. “So much of our future is determined in our early childhood. Increasing awareness and providing interventions in young kids will go a long way to decreasing the number of disconnected youth.” Developing a means of detecting early signs of dropouts in grades K–12 and offering pathways to vocational training are two of Guyer’s recommendations.
Read Guyer’s co-authored report, “Halve The Gap: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities.”