Smartest College Kids Are Rushing to Economics
Recent enrollment figures are ominous. The number of smart kids studying computer science peaked a few years ago and has dropped dramatically since. The number of new computer science majors today has fallen by half since 2000, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Merrilea Mayo, director of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable at the National Academies, says the drop-off was particularly pronounced among women.
Meanwhile, elite schools are reporting that the number of economics majors is exploding. For the 2003–2004 academic year, the number of economics degrees granted by U.S. colleges and universities increased 40 percent from five years previously. Economics is seen by bright undergraduates as the path to a high-paying job on Wall Street or at a major corporation.
See top chart above, it's true that economics majors have increased by more than 45% from 1996-2003 (most recent year for which data are available), and by 40% from 1998 to 2003, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
However, the annual number of Ph.D. graduates in economics decreased by more than 7% between 1996 and 2003, which raises the question: Will there be enough economics professors to teaching the increasing number of economics students?