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Why do Students Study Economics?

  • Andrew Mearman
  • Aspasia Papa
  • Don Webber

This paper presents a chronological, adaptive and reflective investigation into students' perceptions of and motivations for choosing to study economics. Applications of multiple quantitative and qualitative techniques to student-level primary survey and focus group data reveal the following. First, students' perceptions of economics are on average somewhat negative, although there is considerable variation. Second, they regard economics as having value, in terms of providing insight, specialist knowledge, and skills of argumentation (all of which are perceived to be superior to peers). Third, they recognise the subject yields financial and other career advantages and has kudos. Fourth, they suggest that the relevance and usefulness of economics is important and consequently that excessive theorisation and a lack of practicality are problematic. These findings have considerable implications for how economics is taught, and for the nature of the subject itself.

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Article provided by Economic Issues in its journal Economic Issues.

Volume (Year): 19 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 119-147

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Handle: RePEc:eis:articl:114mearman
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  1. Robert F. Garnett Jr. & Andrew Mearman, 2011. "Contending perspectives, 20 years on: what have our students learned?," International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 2(1), pages 2-18.
  2. Yu Zhu & Ian Walker, 2011. "Differences by Degree: Evidence of the Net Financial Rates of Return to Undergraduate Study for England and Wales," Working Papers 33, AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium.
  3. Daniel R. Marburger, 2001. "Absenteeism and Undergraduate Exam Performance," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 99-109, January.
  4. Andrea L. Ziegert & KimMarie McGoldrick, 2008. "When Service is Good for Economics: Linking the Classroom and Community through Service-Learning," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 7(2), pages 39-56.
  5. Robert Garnett & Andrew Mearman, 2011. "Contending Perspectives, Twenty Years On: What Have Our Students Learned?," Working Papers 201104, Texas Christian University, Department of Economics.
  6. Andrew Mearman & Tim Wakeley & Gamila Shoib & Don J. Webber, 2009. "Does pluralism in economics education make better educated, happier students? A qualitative analysis," Working Papers 0916, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  7. Siegfried, John J & Round, David K, 1994. "The Australian Undergraduate Economics Degree: Results from a Survey of Students," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 70(209), pages 192-203, June.
  8. Don J. Webber & Andrew Mearman, 2009. "Students’ perceptions of economics:Identifying demand for further study," Working Papers 0914, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  9. repec:lan:wpaper:2271 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. C. Bram Cadsby & Elizabeth Maynes, 1998. "Laboratory experiments in corporate and investment finance: a survey," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 277-298.
  11. David Colander, 2003. "The Aging of an Economist," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0304, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  12. Peter Davies & Ross Guest, 2010. "What effect do we really have on students' understanding and attitudes? How do we know?," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 9(1), pages 6-9.
  13. Paul Ormerod, 2003. "Turning the Tide: Bringing Economics Teaching into the Twenty First Century," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 1(1), pages 71-79.
  14. repec:lan:wpaper:2153 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. repec:lan:wpaper:2409 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. John R. Carter & Michael D. Irons, 1991. "Are Economists Different, and If So, Why?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 171-177, Spring.
  17. David Colander, 2000. "Telling Better Stories in Introductory Macro," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 76-80, May.
  18. repec:lan:wpaper:2155 is not listed on IDEAS
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