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Educating Economists

Educating Economists

The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major

Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick

The economics major is a central part of a college education. But is that economics major doing what it is meant to do? And if not, how should it be changed? This book raises a set of provocative questions that encourage readers to look at the economics major in a different light than it is typically considered and provides a series of recommendations for change.

Chapter 22: What Economics Majors Think of the Economics Major

Steven Jones, Eric Hoest, Richie Fuld, David Colander and Mahesh Dahal

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, methodology of economics, teaching economics, education, economics of education, teaching and learning


Steven Jones, Eric Hoest, Richie Fuld, Mahesh Dahal, and David Colander1 Students have a unique perspective on the economics major, and in some ways are in the best position to judge it. This chapter tries to tap into their collective mind set. It reports the results of two surveys of economics majors at various undergraduate institutions across the country. One survey was a randomized survey of economics majors at all types of undergraduate institutions.2 The second survey was a more directed survey of economics majors at 11 top research liberal arts colleges.3 Combined, the surveys give a good sense of what students think of the economics major.4 This report builds on earlier work, which looked at the economics major from a number of perspectives.5 Some earlier works include Brasfield et al. (1996), which showed that colleges with business programs reported less of a decline in economics majors in the 1990s than other colleges. Salemi and Eubanks (1996) developed the discouraged-business-major hypothesis, which demonstrated that many students at colleges with restrictedentry business programs took economics as a second choice, a point that is reinforced by results from our surveys. However, none of these studies have specifically tried to address the particular questions that are the focus of this report, although they have looked at relevant issues. Additionally, studies that contain information from other majors can provide an important context for many of the findings in this report. The organization of this chapter is as follows: for each aspect of the economics...

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