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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »