Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sociology major? It's your density.

The economist's economist, David Hamermesh, takes a look at those ranking starting salaries for college majors. The ones where economics does so well. As I've long suspected, studying economics mostly means you're smart and willing to work hard.

FreeExchange writes it up so I don't have to. But here's a key quote from Hamermesh himself at Freakonomics:
While differences in earnings by college major are huge, once you account for longer hours worked by business and engineering majors, by the fact that they often have higher SAT scores, and other factors, the differences are much smaller; indeed, over half of the variation in earnings by major disappears.

In other words, the amounts of human capital generated in college by different choices of major are not so different from one another as most people believe. Liberal arts majors don’t do that much worse than business majors; and economics majors do as well as business majors do.
Related - Bryan Caplan explains why you should choose economics over engineering:
Econ is the highest-paid of all the easy majors. My students often howl in protest when I say this, but come on: Econ does not put the crimp on your social life that CS or Engineering do. It's not even close.
The link to Caplan contains several other recent posts about economics salaries by economics bloggers.

Tangentially related, Michael Medved writes,
With applicants drawn from an ever-widening segment of the populace (including the likes of Dukakis, Clinton and Obama), and increased focus by the country's most ambitious kids on just two schools at the competitive pinnacle of the academic heap, Yale/Harvard graduates increasingly came to represent America's best — not just the best-connected.

Today, the most prestigious degrees don't so much guarantee success in adulthood as they confirm success in childhood and adolescence. That piece of parchment from New Haven or Cambridge doesn't guarantee you've received a spectacular education, but it does indicate that you've competed with single-minded effectiveness in the first 20 years of life.

And the winners of that daunting battle — the driven, ferociously focused kids willing to expend the energy and make the sacrifices to conquer our most exclusive universities — are among those most likely to enjoy similar success in the even more fiercely fought free-for-all of presidential politics.
Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the Medved pointer.

UPDATE - Craig Newmark discusses the latest raw starting salary numbers for college majors put out by National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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