IIR Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Joshua Tuttle

IIR Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Joshua Tuttle

Dr. Joshua Tuttle is a sociologist who graduated with his Ph.D. from George Mason University in 2019. During his graduate studies, Dr. Tuttle “focused on research of capitalism and Christianity” and “was specifically interested in the relationship between capitalist ethics and Protestant ideas about stewardship in the United States.” 

From 2012 to 2017, Dr. Tuttle worked at the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) as a Graduate Research Assistant, where he researched the contributions of immigrant communities to local economies.

Reflections on Graduate Research Assistantship at the IIR

At the IIR, Dr. Tuttle worked on various projects about the economic contributions of immigrant communities. In one research project, for example, he examined tax revenue from immigrant households and the costs of social assistance for immigrant households. This project asked whether there was a net gain from immigrant tax contributions. He contributed to research on differences in wages, including the gender pay gap, among immigrants working in STEM fields in the United States. Dr. Tuttle supported the development of a geostatistical database of U.S. Census and geospatial data and worked on a number of projects mapping immigrant communities across the contemporary United States.

Notably, Dr. Tuttle was integral to the beginnings of the IIR’s Immigration Data on Demand (iDod) service, through which individuals and institutions continue to request tailored data to examine immigrant populations in specific U.S. geographies. 

Dr. Tuttle highlighted the “IIR team” as the best part of working at the IIR. Together with fellow graduate students and the mentorship from IIR postdoc Dr. Justin Lowry and Director Dr. Jim Witte, Dr. Tuttle “learned the practice of statistics and applied social science. It was an amazing opportunity.”

Applying Research Skills and Training to Postgraduate Career 

After graduating, Dr. Tuttle conducted applied survey research at Deloitte before moving to a small firm called GovStrive, where he continues to do similar work in applied research for federal agencies: "We take business problems, turn them into research questions, and then research those questions using human resources data and publicly available data to find answers and practical solutions.

In his current role, Dr. Tuttle applies his sociological training to address business problems ranging from employee attrition to workforce diversification and planning projects. Moreover, he has been able to “carry forward” the statistical training, GIS skills, and analyses of American Community Survey (ACS) data he gained as a Graduate Research Assistant at the IIR: "A lot of [federal] agencies are interested in what diversity looks like from a demographic perspective among the U.S. workforce and how it might be reflected among federal workers. Methodologically, I use my statistical training every day and I pass it on to people I work with through guidance and mentorship."

In thinking back to his time at the IIR, Dr. Tuttle highlights: 

It [the experience at the IIR] helped me gain traction in the practice of statistics. You can study it in coursework, and you can do independent research papers and present at conferences…but doing the statistical work for the IIR with a direct application and then handing it off to stakeholders – that helped me really refine my understanding of applied research, how complex it can be, and how to navigate that complexity. That was probably the biggest impact for me: being part of that process and seeing the business of applied research. My experience at the IIR has helped me to perform well in my career.

Advice to Mason Students Interested in Immigration Research

Reflecting his own experience, Dr. Tuttle encourages current Mason students to “get involved as soon as possible in an applied research project. That’s really an invaluable experience. Classrooms are great, but you’re really learning the theory and some of the practice. When you get to work with a team to produce research that answers timely questions or informs policy…that is a totally different thing. I would recommend getting involved in that early and playing a junior role so you can learn from folks who have the experience on those projects.”

For students interested in immigration, Dr. Tuttle highlights that although the “hot button issues” in immigration change over time, “the general concerns are always the same. People are still asking, ‘How do we manage immigration? And how do we manage the resources we’re going to provide to immigrants?’ Those are two questions people are concerned about…and oftentimes they’re not well-informed concerns. It’s important to provide good empirical data to try to drive discussions about those questions. It may not make it to the political sphere, but you can talk with different constituents who are thinking about who they will vote for and the policies they favor. Maybe you can bring them data that will help them make logical, informed political decisions."

To get started, Dr. Tuttle advises students to focus on the questions that people in their immediate vicinity are talking about, and ask: "What can we do to answer some of the questions that local people are interested in?"