Does Studying Economics Make You More Republican?
By PATRICK MCGEEHAN
Several academic studies have found that there is a link between education levels and civic behavior. But a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has concluded that how much economics people study can influence their political activity and how they spend their spare time.
The study compared the behavior of economics majors with those of business majors and other graduates of four large public universities — Purdue University, the University of North Carolina, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The subjects attended those schools in one of three years: 1976, 1986 or 1996.
Most notably, the study found that the more economics classes a person took, the more likely he or she was to be a member of the Republican Party and to donate money to a political candidate or a cause.
But students of economics were no more or less likely than other graduates to have voted in the 2000 presidential election, the study found. Business majors, on the other hand, were less likely than other former students to have voted for president in 2000 or to have volunteered their time for a cause, political or otherwise.
The authors of the study — Sam Allgood, William Bosshardt, Wilbert van der Klaauw and Michael Watts — said they could not say
if those in different majors perceive the costs (value of time) or the benefits of these activities differently. But our results clearly suggest there is more to the story than simply “being educated” — so that what people study in college, or what they choose to study, is associated with their civic behaviors many years after they graduate.
The study also gathered responses to seven questions about public policy issues, such as tariffs, trade deficits, the minimum wage and oil prices. On five of the seven, the authors found a link between the opinions expressed and the number of economics courses the respondents had completed.
The more economics courses they had completed, the more likely they were to agree that tariffs reduce economic welfare and that increases in the minimum wage raise unemployment, and the less likely they were to think that trade deficits adversely affect the economy and that government should regulate oil prices.
“In sum,” the study said, “those taking more economics classes favored less regulation or government intervention affecting prices for specific goods and services, including wages and salaries.”