20 Business, Economics, and Finance Research and Passion Project Ideas for High School Students
By Jordan Ellington
Project Support Manager at Polygence
By Alex Armstrong
MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
By Alex Yang
Graduate student at Southern Methodist University
15 minute read
Do you want to start or run your own business? Are you interested in the world of financial markets? Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about why the cost of eggs is so high right now? Either way, business and economics are some of the most popular majors in college, and to get a head start in learning about them is a great way to explore your interests and show colleges that you’re taking initiative.
Learn more about the fields of business, finance, and economics through a project of your own!
This list of 20 research and passion project ideas can provide inspiration to help you get started. These are mostly rough ideas and suggestions; you can shape your project in any way that you want and decide on the final deliverable.
If any of these topics pique your interest, or you have another idea you want to explore, sign up to get matched with a mentor and begin your Business, Economics or Finance project!
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Engaging in an economics, finance, or business project during your high school years offers numerous benefits and opportunities for personal and academic growth. Here are some compelling reasons to embark on such a project:
Explore Your Interests: Dive into the world of business and economics to discover your passion and interests in these fields.
Gain Insight: Understand complex economic issues, financial markets, and real-world business dynamics.
Boost College Prospects: Demonstrate initiative and dedication to colleges through your independent project.
In summary, doing an economics, finance, or business project provides you with a platform to explore your interests, develop critical skills, and make a meaningful contribution to your field of study. It's a valuable experience that can set you on a path to success in college and beyond.
1. Analyze an economic issue of your choice!
Learn to think like an economist! First, you will choose a topic that interests you (e.g., inflation, gender, poverty, education, international trade, financial markets). You will then do some preliminary research into the basic principles behind the topic, like understanding why inflation happens and whether it’s good or bad. While doing your research on your topic(s) you will gain an understanding of the structure that economists follow to analyze your chosen phenomena. Then, as you gain a better understanding of your topic, you can start to dive into more cutting-edge research about the topic.
2. Follow the economy
Gain a better understanding of our current economy! Even if you watch the news and keep a close eye on what’s happening in the world, it can be difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with economics. Certain things seem to be happening in the world of economics but what causes them and what effects do they have on our livelihood? Start this project by learning the basics of economics. Once you gain a better understanding, take a deeper dive into our economy today! Read some recent news articles (e.g., the Wall Street Journal) to learn more about the current state of the economy. Then, based on what you’ve learned from economics basics, what do you think the government should do about it?
Idea by Economics research mentor Taylor
3. Comparative tax policy
Conversations that revolve around taxes are never particularly fun! Especially if you’re filing them. But if you’ve ever wondered how tax policies affect businesses or why tax rates vary from state to state or country to country, it’s time to do your research! Learn more about how taxes create trade-offs in our economy and affect economic growth, and the various taxation strategies (e.g., flat rate vs. progressive). Then, write a policy memo on why the U.S. should or shouldn't follow other developed countries in adopting a value-added tax (VAT).
4. Gender economic inequality
Have you ever noticed that there are certain occupations where mainly women seem to be hired? Most of these positions fall within the realm of the service industry, including social work, healthcare, and hospitality, so because of this, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. If this is a topic that you’re passionate about, you might look into how the pandemic has impacted female employment. You can also look at other topics like how the gig economy has influenced women’s work opportunities. This Gender Inequality in the Workplace article is a good source of inspiration for other specific issues to dive into.
Idea by Economics research mentor Kristen
5. Apply a nudge!
Appearance is everything! In fact, you are likely to pick a specific food item off of a shelf or at the cafeteria because of how it’s positioned. This entire concept of positioning, designing, or phrasing something to make it more intriguing to customers is called a “nudge”. They appear everywhere in our daily lives (learn more about the concept of Nudge Theory). But just how effective is nudging? Put this question to the test by applying a nudge experiment around your home, school, or neighborhood to see how this impacts others’ spending decisions. You can decide what kind of “nudge” you want to apply in your experiment, and be sure that you have both an experimental and a control group (i.e., people who do not receive the “nudge”).
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6. Soda Taxes: what works, and why?
In recent years, a number of cities, states, and countries have introduced taxes on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks and energy drinks. These taxes are designed to reduce the consumption of sweetened beverages. This project would seek to review the existing literature on how these taxes have performed, including documenting where and when these taxes went into place; identifying the key parameters that go into the design of these taxes; synthesizing the results of how these taxes affect soda and sugar consumption; and making recommendations about whether the student's local community should introduce such a tax, and if so, how exactly it should do so.
Idea by Economics research mentor Paul
7. What makes a country rich?
You can probably name some rich countries and some poor countries, but what makes a rich country rich? Is it natural resources? Their system of government? Their "human capital" – education and civic spirit? Or is it just a random accident of history we have no control over? For countries that were once traditionally seen as less prosperous, how have they been able to become “richer” in past years? You could look at case studies, for example. What did China do under Deng Xiaoping or Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew? You could especially use statistics to test theories about what specifically causes economic growth and a country to become “richer”, and try to uncover some ideas for leaders and politicians who want to create prosperity for their nations.
Idea by Economics research mentor Jesse
8. Performance pay and teacher incentives
One of the central ideas of economics is that people respond to incentives. How does this principle apply to paying teachers? If you’re passionate about the education system this project idea could be interesting for you! In researching incentives for teachers, you can learn more about the value-added models of teacher pay and recent state policies that implement performance pay for teachers. Performance pay is exactly what it sounds like - your salary is based on your performance and contributions. You could also explore arguments for and against adding performance pay to teacher salaries and look into current data on the effects of performance teacher pay policies on student outcomes. What could make this project even more interesting is if you interviewed/surveyed teachers or school administrators at your high school to see what they think about performance pay.
9. Minimum Wage
The literature on minimum wages is one of the broadest in economics. The application of different techniques in the research has often led to very different results from paper to paper, and there is no consensus on the correct answers at this point. You can contribute to this literature by working on a project of your own. The project could be mostly model-based (economic theory) or it could be geared toward testing your hypothesis on the data (empirical economics). Think through what effects you expect, and what data you might want to collect to test your hypothesis. Specifically, you could explore how minimum wage has changed or fluctuated in your home state, and how that has impacted citizens’ well-being.
Idea by Economics research mentor Brian
10. Measuring income and access to a grocery store
Ever looked at a map of grocery stores near you and wondered why they seem to be more or less clustered together? Well, a simple hypothesis would be that the grocery stores are located where the population is clustered. However, a look at the distribution of grocery stores and population densities across cities in America may suggest otherwise. Therefore, you can hypothesize that the higher the average income in a given neighborhood, the easier it is for its residents to have a grocery store in that neighborhood. To explore this topic quantitatively, you can use data available online to find statistical correlations between the average income per household in a neighborhood and the number of grocery stores in the neighborhood. From the statistical analysis, you can draw upon economics concepts and theory to suggest policies that may help ensure grocery access to more people across the U.S., increasing the baseline standard of living. How can technological innovation also play a part in this? What about grocery delivery apps and companies?
Idea by Economics research mentor Sunny
11. Perfect Waves: how surf quality impacts residential property values
While surfing is possible wherever there are waves, the quality of surf spots is highly variable, with factors like bathymetry and exposure to swell and wind playing major roles. In this project, we examine the impact of desirable waves on the real estate markets in their neighboring communities. To do this, first understand the basic factors that impact the quality of surf spots. Then, analyze residential real estate transactions in select coastal communities and perform regression analysis to discern the impact of wave quality on price.
Idea by Economics research mentor Joseph
1. Crypto Case Study: in-depth market research on crypto-currency businesses
Cryptocurrency, or crypto for short, is a form of digital currency that uses cryptography for secure financial transactions and operates independently of a central bank or government. Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, are gaining popularity. With this project, you can gain a better understanding of finance-focused crypto businesses from all around the world. Do your research and handpick a few companies to deeply study. Where did they go wrong? When and why did they thrive? What is their value proposition for customers? With crypto currently not doing so well and being associated with scandal, there’s an opportunity for you to learn a lot throughout this process!
Idea by Finance research mentor Ben
2. The Stock Market and Quant Traders
How does the stock market work? When I buy a stock, who am I really buying it from and what am I buying? What is a stock exchange and how does it work? As it turns out, the answers to all three questions are not what you'd first expect! Explore these fundamentals about the stock market first before diving into the field of quantitative trading firms. These firms use algorithms and trained models to find underpriced stocks, allowing them to then sell at a higher price if the stock price goes up. How do these quantitative trading firms work?
Idea by Finance research mentor Richard
Complete a 6-week research project in Finance
Dive into highly concentrated content on a finance-related topic with the guidance of an expert mentor in investments and artificial intelligence, and build your own unique project in just 6 weeks!
1. ABCs of Launching a Venture: building a business plan
Interested in starting your own business and think you have a great idea? Build your own business plan! If your dream is to someday start your own business, why not start mapping out a plan now? Outline what your product is going to be, why it will succeed in the market, and how you’re going to generate revenue. Be sure to analyze existing products that might be competitive with yours, and think about how your product or revenue generation model will be differentiated. Also, what is the market like for your product? Are there clear companies that dominate the space or are there many players? These are the questions you’ll have to ask yourself as you look to build your business plan.
Idea by Business research mentor Hannah
2. Analyze a company or compare two companies
Learn the ins and outs of how a company functions! Pick either one or two companies of your choice to deeply analyze/compare! Learn to read and analyze a business by looking at a company’s 10-K (a document that outlines everything about a business) and seeing how they generate revenue and what costs they have. You can find a company’s 10-K usually by just googling the company’s name followed by “10-K.” You can also look through articles, the company’s websites, or even interviews with the leaders of the company to learn more about their product and company culture. If you’re comparing two companies, try to see if you can hypothesize why one company might be bigger / more successful than the other!
Idea by Business research mentor Ali
3. Launch a social media brand
Help someone expand their business through social media! Find a small business that might not have a great social media presence, and would be open to your help and guidance! Think first about how you would pitch the value of social media to the small business. How would they benefit? How would it help them generate more revenue? Think about what social media platform you would use, and what kinds of content you would post. Tons of small businesses, particularly restaurants, are now making full use of social media to spread more awareness, and you can help a business do the exact same!
Idea by Business research mentor Ben
4. Business product analysis
In this project, you will conduct a comprehensive analysis of a chosen product from a company of your choosing. You can pick a product that you know particularly well and ideally one that you use yourself. What does the product do? How does it help customers? How does the product compare to the competition in terms of price, quality, and other factors? You can even think about how the product could be improved, based on your own experience or comparisons to competitor products. What do other customers think of the product, based on online reviews? The final outcome of the project can be written documentation that summarizes the chosen product and provides reflections on potential improvements.
Idea by Business research mentor Leo
5. Marketing to free agents in sports
Interested in the intersection of business and sports? This project might be exciting for you! When a player hits free agency in any sport, teams, and General Managers across the league throw money at the player in hopes that he or she will sign with their team. However, choosing a new team is a life-altering decision that involves more than just salary. The goal of this research would be to pretend that you’re involved with a major sports franchise of your choice and derive a sales and marketing strategy with which General Managers can approach free agents. By determining which factors (e.g., salary, city quality, cost of living, team quality) move the needle most for players, this strategy could effectively help the franchise market themselves to free agents and increase the likelihood of not only signing their desired players but potentially signing them for a discounted price.
Idea by Business research mentor Molly
1. The Metaverse
The metaverse is a hot topic in tech culture, but what exactly is it? The metaverse encompasses many different tech stacks from virtual reality, augmented reality, and web3/blockchain/NFT architecture. Big tech companies like Facebook have now made commitments to the metaverse. Explore what the metaverse actually is and why it’s a revolutionary idea, and break down how traditional businesses can expand their business to sell new types of products in the metaverse. The movie Ready Player One is also a great introduction to the metaverse and what it could actually look like, so definitely watch and analyze the movie as part of your research.
Idea by Business research mentor Brandon
2. Artificial Intelligence replacing knowledge workers
Are AI tools like chatGPT and DALL-E (text to image) poised to rapidly replace knowledge workers? Generative AI tools like chatGPT are capable of performing all sorts of tasks, from drafting sales copy to writing code, but is AI enough to replace knowledge workers? This is a hot topic that many people are weighing in on right now. There are certainly jobs that could and will be replaced by automation, but there could also be others where AI simply complements the work of a human. Explore how AI will or will not replace different workers. What industries or roles are most susceptible to being replaced by AI? What specific tools could they be replaced by? Come up with your opinion on this debate and if possible focus on a specific industry and how generative AI might impact it.
Idea by Business research mentor Brandon
As we’ve shown, there are many different Economic, Finance, and Business project ideas for high school students to explore. Here’s how to help you decide which one you should start.
Reflect on Your Interests and Goals: Start by considering your personal interests within economics and business. Identify the areas that intrigue you the most and align with your academic and career goals.
Assess Your Knowledge and Resources: Evaluate your existing knowledge and skills in economics and business. Choose a project idea that allows you to build on your strengths and is feasible within your available resources.
Consult with Mentors and Advisors: Seek guidance from mentors, teachers, or advisors who specialize in economics, finance, or business. Discuss your interests and potential project ideas with them to gain valuable insights and suggestions.
Review Project Descriptions and Deliverables: Carefully read through project descriptions provided by mentors. Identify project ideas that resonate with your interests and align with the type of deliverable you'd like to create.
Consider Personal Connection and Impact: Reflect on the personal connection you have with the project idea. Choose projects that genuinely pique your curiosity and passion. Additionally, assess the potential impact of your research within the field.
By following these steps, you can confidently select a business, economics, or finance project idea that suits your interests, abilities, and aspirations.
Once you’ve picked a project idea, check out some of our resources to help you progress with your project! Whether you’re stuck on how to cite sources, how to come up with a great thesis statement, or how to showcase your work once it’s finished, we can help you out.
Business, Economics, and Finance Projects Completed By Polygence Students
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