Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Smartest College Kids Are Rushing to Economics

From The American, via Marginal Revolution, about how "the smartest college kids are rushing to major in 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?


At 9/13/2007 1:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me included. After spending years off and on in college and finally flunking Electrical Engineering, a good thing in hindsight. I figure it's time for a bachelor's in something.

At 9/13/2007 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad for America because we need more engineers than economists. These graduates will have a hard time finding a job, especially considering the job cuts in finance companies coming in the next few months/years.

Of course, if engineering is not for your, you better study economics or something else.

At 9/13/2007 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I don’t see any evidence these are necessarily the smartest students receiving economic degrees other than a statement “elite schools are reporting.” Unless, of course, someone is subjectively saying those who choose economics are smarter than those who do not. There’s no mention of GPAs, SATs or the other usual, measurable indicators of “smartness.” Maybe your title should be “Many College Kids Are Rushing to Economics.”

I think you answered your own question about the supply of future economic professors in one of your earlier posts on this blog. If I remember correctly, you reported the pay for Ph.Ds in the finance field was substantially higher than the pay for Ph.Ds in the economics’ field, and the training was only slightly different. Sounds like an astute lateral move for an economics’ professor to consider.

At 9/13/2007 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or that the NPV of an Econ BA is higher than the NPV of an Econ PhD--for individual students. What's the Net Social Value of same?

At 9/20/2007 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares? There are plenty of CS types in India and China who work much cheaper. Outsourcing is good for America. This will allow us to concentrate on higher value jobs in America's core compentency - Retail Management.


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