Why Economics is Heating Up as the Economy Cools

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For decades, the study of economics has gotten a bad rap. Dubbed “the dismal science” for its devotion to numbers above all else, economics requires its disciples to have a strong grasp on complex mathematics and a commitment to rationalism even where rational behavior doesn’t exist. In the past, most American college graduates eschewed the emotionless field of economics for seemingly more passionate studies, like literature or biology.

However, research shows that more and more university students are turning their attention toward the dismal science; the number of graduates holding degrees in economics has risen nearly 40 percent in just five years. Economists themselves are baffled as to why such multitudes of students are turning to this age-old field, but they have offered a few reasons as to swing in attitude.

Pop Economics

Believe it or not, right now, economics is pretty cool. While in the past, economists did little to thin the density of the subject, today’s breed toils day and night to make regular people understand the importance of the science. Their struggles have paid off, and economics is now experiencing a unique period of popularity in culture.

Freakonomics, the book turned documentary turned podcast, is the most obvious example of this. Hosts Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, a duo of an economist and a writer respectively, tackle everyday questions — Why should you get married? Why are some baby names popular? Why doesn’t everyone get vaccinated? — from an economist’s point of view. By reviewing numerical data published by authoritative sources, Levitt and Dubner are able to reveal the economics behind every decision humans make, which makes economics fascinating and relevant to everyone. Freakonomics and other media like it are creating a new brand of the science, called pop economics, which makes the subject more accessible and enjoyable.

Career Stability

As a social science, economics is a flexible field of study, which means economics graduates are primed and ready for a bevy of career paths. For example, economists can expect to find eager employers in any of the following employment fields:

  • Public sector. Government positions for economists will have them collecting and collating data about country and world economies. In the U.S., government economists can work for agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and even the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • Private corporations. Private companies ask economists to understand and predict the economy’s effect on their profits. Though large enterprises often have more positions, any size company can benefit from an economist’s work.
  • International organizations. As globalization advances, more and more organizations require economists to research and explain global economic activity.
  • Research firms. With the aim of greater good, large numbers of economists work together to study the impact of various policies on the health of society. Findings are often used as testimony for laws and regulations or published in articles and books.

Most economic experts argue that there is no better degree for career stability than economics simply because of the wealth of opportunities available. Plus, economists regularly boast one of the highest employability records and some of the top salaries. With these promises to look forward to after graduation, it should be no wonder that students are flocking to the field in droves.

Profound Interest

While it may seem too simple, the spike in economics graduates may be the result of merely more students becoming interested in the subject. With the Great Recession of 2008 and the debt crisis in Greece, the past decade has seen quite a bit of economic upheaval around the world. Growing up with such topics constantly on the news must have sparked interest in some young students to study the economic turmoil plaguing the globe. Undoubtedly, for many students this interest developed into full-blown fascination after a few classes, and a new generation of devoted economists was born.

Personal Applicability

Economics isn’t just applicable on the grand scale of country and world economies — it is also beneficial when it comes to managing personal and family finances. Studies show that investors with even a small knowledge base in economics can see bigger returns.

Plus, understanding interest rates, exchange rates, and more will aid in procuring mortgages and traveling abroad. Though this reason may not explain the rising rate of economics graduates, it certainly does contribute to the growing appeal of the science.

No matter what is causing students to turn to the economics, most experts agree that this new-found attraction to the science is far from bad. In fact, now that the field of study is cool, we may be able to expect the economy to heat up once again.








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