Thursday, 28 April 2011

Econ students are nice people too!

A Staff Report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asks Is Economics Coursework, or Majoring in Economics, Associated with Different Civic Behaviors? The abstract reads,
Studies regularly link levels of educational attainment to civic behavior and attitudes, but only a few investigate the role played by specific coursework. Using data collected from students who attended one of four public universities in our study, we investigate the relationship between economics coursework and civic behavior after graduation. Drawing from large samples of students in economics, business, or general majors, we compare responses across the three groups and by the number of undergraduate economics courses completed. We find that undergraduate coursework in economics is strongly associated with political party affiliation and with donations to candidates or parties, but not with the decision to vote or not vote. Nor is studying economics correlated with the likelihood (or intensity of) volunteerism. While we find that the civic behavior of economics majors and business majors is similar, it appears that business majors are less likely than general majors to engage in time-consuming behaviors such as voting and volunteering. Finally, we extend earlier studies that address the link between economics coursework and attitudes on public policy issues, finding that graduates who studied more economics usually reported attitudes closer to those expressed in national surveys of U.S. economists. Interestingly, we find the public policy attitudes of business majors to be more like those of general majors than of economics majors.
I wonder how much of this is self section? Is it not likely that people who are interested in politics, for example, are also interested in economics? It may not just be what they are learning in their course work that is affect their decisions. Unfortunately it turns out that in the paper the authors state,
[...] we cannot say if our results reflect what individuals have learned in these courses and majors, or if the relationships identified here are due to self-selection among college graduates into different college majors and economics course taking.
So we don't really know.

No comments: