They find that overall both male and female economics majors earn more than other majors (which other studies have found too), but importantly:
When we added occupational controls, we found that the average male Bachelor of Arts in economics major earns 8.64 percent more than his non-economics-major counterpart working in the same type of job. The advantage for female economics majors is 5.37 percent more than their counterparts of the same age, ethnicity, and job, who have different majors...
Essentially, about two-thirds of the bachelor's degree premium for economics major can be attributed to the type of job economics majors perform, and about one-third is a premium that economics majors earn over other workers within the same job.In other words, economics majors tend to be employed in jobs that pay more on average than other jobs, but this only explains two-third of the extra earnings that economics majors receive. So, even if you aren't employed as an economist, these results suggest that there is an earnings benefit to having an economics undergraduate major (the authors also show there are benefits for economics majors who have done further study as well).
Is there something intrinsic about economics majors that lead to these higher earnings? Carroll et al. quote this earlier paper by Black, Sanders and Taylor (ungated here):
In a good undergraduate economics program, students develop an ability to think critically: They gain broadly applicable analytic and quantitative skills that improve decision making in a wide range of tasks. In short, it may be that economics majors are better trained than many other majors in skills that have returns in the marketplace.I would agree with that - economics does provide students with skills that are both widely applicable, and in demand. Of course, that attributes causality to the relationship between economics major and earnings, which may be problematic. Maybe it is that economics students are naturally more intelligent, harder working, or just generally better employees and are rewarded with higher wages as a result? More research needed, but I would still argue that the case for completing an economics major is very strong.
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