Exploring the Economic Major: Requirements and Content
Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (CST)
- Chair: Avi J. Cohen, York University
Requirements of the Undergraduate Economics Major: An Update and Comparison
AbstractThis paper describes the undergraduate economics curriculum, as of 2020, for most of the 793 U.S. colleges and universities that conferred an economics degree in 2019 as the field continues to evolve. We emphasize a continued increase in the quantitative and empirical nature of the discipline as evidenced by the (re-)classification of many degrees to econometrics and quantitative economics (STEM-eligible) over the past several years, from 1% of all undergraduate economics degrees conferred in 2012 to 22% in 2019. In addition to updating the prevalence of the core requirements of the economics major and how these differ by institution type, we record new information on the variation in requirements across economics degree types, as classified by the National Center for Education Statistics, including STEM-designated degree types. We find that 67% of degrees require single-variable calculus, 10% require multi-variable calculus, and 54% require basic econometrics (up from 41% in 2010) and that these requirements vary highly by degree type. We also investigate the prevalence of calculus-based intermediate courses and find that nearly two-thirds (63%) of economics degrees require calculus for the intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics courses, but that this varies by degree type with 93% of STEM-eligible degrees and only 59% of other economics degrees. Finally, we determine the requirements of the “typical” undergraduate economics degree in the United States, through weighting by total degrees conferred, and find that 82% of degrees require single-variable calculus, 14% require multi-variable calculus, and 63% require basic econometrics, markedly different than the unweighted requirements.
Math Prep for Introductory Microeconomics
AbstractBallard and Johnson (2004) find “that mastery of extremely basic quantitative skills is among the most important factors for success in introductory microeconomics.” But what are these “extremely basic quantitative skills” and how can students lacking these skills be identified early on so they can be provided with the needed help to prepare for introductory microeconomics? Once identified, what is the most effective way to provide the math review? We assess the effectiveness of an innovative new course – Principles of Mathematics for Economics - on subsequent performance in introductory microeconomics. This one-semester in-person course covers topics in arithmetic, algebra, geometry and graphing, starting at the number line and ending with graphs of nonlinear functions. In Fall 2021, incoming introductory microeconomics students at The George Washington University were required to take the Math for Economics Skills Assessment (MESA). Enrollment in the math review class was based on whether students performed below a threshold value on MESA. About 200 students (15% of all students registered for introductory microeconomics) were enrolled in the review course in Fall 2021. We track student performance in the review course in Fall 2021 and then track the same students’ performance in Principles of Microeconomics in Spring 2022 against students who did not have to take or chose not to take the review course. Along with results, we will discuss some of the other structural changes needed to successfully onboard students to introductory microeconomics, as well as the institutional costs and benefits of this approach to preparing students for economics.
Creating a Highly Interactive Economics Course with New Online Tools and OER – at NO MONETARY COST to Students!
AbstractWe highlight the development of new online interactive tools for teaching economic concepts. These tools were combined with Open Educational Resources (OER) to provide principles of microeconomics courses with no monetary cost to students for course materials. One hesitation for moving to OER materials is the lack of interactive tools which have significant randomization providing students with ample formative practice, including intuitive automatic feedback, while significantly reducing the potential for cheating.
A noteworthy contribution of our creation is the highly algorithmic nature of the interactive tools. Every time a student accesses an interactive tool, they are faced with different: numbers, names, scenarios, slopes on the curves, and spots in an incomplete table. We piloted these interactive tools in several sections of principles of microeconomics in fall 2021 and spring 2022. Student feedback of their experience using these tools in our newly designed course has been resoundingly positive.
We found that we have relatively more students who gain the economic intuition and understanding of the economic concepts and models taught over the semester. This is because the students have a very limited ability to cheat on the course quizzes as designed. Therefore, to answer the question correctly, the students need to understand how and why the models work.
For ease of adoption for the instructor, the 100+ interactive tools we developed can be integrated into any Learning Management System, such as Canvas, Blackboard or Desire2Learn, which allows the student's grades to be automatically recorded.
Our paper shares our experience with the course redesign, and interactive tools development. We also show an empirical analysis of student engagement and grade outcomes in the OER pilot sections compared to those in other sections. The students are randomly assigned to the different course sections not knowing which section offers the OER version.
- A2 - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics