"And as its focus broadens, there are even some signs that economics is becoming cool."
The Hot Major For Undergrads Is Economics
By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 5, 2005; Page A11
What's your major? Around the world, college undergraduates' time-honored question is increasingly drawing the same answer: economics.
U.S. colleges and universities awarded 16,141 degrees to economics majors in the 2003-2004 academic year, up nearly 40% from five years earlier, according to John J. Siegfried, an economics professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., who tracks 272 colleges and universities around the country for the Journal of Economic Education.
Since the mid-1990s, the number of students majoring in economics has been rising, while the number majoring in political science and government has declined and the number majoring in history and sociology has barely grown, according to the government's National Center for Education Statistics.
"There has been a clear explosion of economics as a major," says Mark Gertler, chairman of New York University's economics department.
The number of students majoring in economics has been rising even faster at top colleges. At New York University, for example, the number of econ majors has more than doubled in the past 10 years. At nearly 800, it is now the most popular major.
Economics also is the most popular major at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where 964 students majored in the subject in 2005. The number of econ majors at Columbia University in New York has risen 67% since 1995. The University of Chicago said that last year, 24% of its entire graduating class, 240 students, departed with economics degrees.
The trend marks a big switch for the so-called dismal science, which saw big declines in undergraduate enrollments in the early 1990s as interest in other areas, like sociology, was growing. Behind the turnaround is a clear-eyed reading of supply and demand: In a global economy filled with uncertainty, many students see economics as the best vehicle for a job promising good pay and security.
And as its focus broadens, there are even some signs that economics is becoming cool.