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35,000 Principles of Economics Students: Some Lessons Learned


  • Kenneth G. Elzinga

    () (Department of Economics, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400182, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA)

  • Daniel O. Melaugh

    () (Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Derivatives, Global Market Solutions Group, Eleven Madison Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10010, USA)


The principles of economics course is the most common entry point for economic education and commands more attention among researchers than any other college-level course in the discipline. Over a period of 40 years, the senior author of this paper (K.G.E.) has taught this course to over 35,000 students at the University of Virginia. Using his teaching records, we have compiled a database of unusual size and continuity for a study of this kind. We examine conventional topics, such as the role of gender, race, and year of study, in predicting class performance. We also explore relatively unexamined territory, such as comparisons between ‘‘legacy students,’’ athletes, transfer students, and the general student population. Contrary to earlier findings, we find that math SAT scores are the best predictor of success in the principles course, and, consistent with earlier studies, we find a male grade premium (at the highest grade levels).

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth G. Elzinga & Daniel O. Melaugh, 2009. "35,000 Principles of Economics Students: Some Lessons Learned," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 32-46, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:76:1:y:2009:p:32-46

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Hickson, 2016. "Maybe the Boys Just Like Economics More - The Gender Gap and the Role of Personality Type in Economics Education," Working Papers in Economics 16/07, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    2. Kristin Stowe, 2010. "A Quick Argument for Active Learning: The Effectiveness of One-Minute Papers," Journal for Economic Educators, Middle Tennessee State University, Business and Economic Research Center, vol. 10(1), pages 33-39, Summer.
    3. Justine Burns & Simon Halliday & Malcolm Keswell, 2012. "Gender and Risk Taking in the Classroom," SALDRU Working Papers 87, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    4. Jill K. Hayter & Carolyn F. Rochelle, 2014. "Measuring Up: Assessment in Microeconomics," Journal for Economic Educators, Middle Tennessee State University, Business and Economic Research Center, vol. 14(1), pages 25-32, Fall.
    5. Ferreira Lima, Luis Cristovao, 2012. "The determinants of the academic outcome: an Bayesian approach using a sample of economics students from the University of Brasilia, Brazil," MPRA Paper 44784, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Sam Allgood & William B. Walstad & John J. Siegfried, 2015. "Research on Teaching Economics to Undergraduates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 285-325, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A2 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
    • A20 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - General
    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate


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