Why Economics Isn’t a Popular Major

I’ve come to notice that at the University of Oregon (UO), economics isn’t the most popular major. At least, not the most popular primary major. Much of the time, I’ve noticed that accounting, general business, and finance majors are usually the ones double majoring in economics (economics being the secondary major). Of course, this makes me quite sad.

Why would this matter to me? Well, in a way, it really doesn’t. It matters to me not because I love economics and I think everybody should study it. It matters to me because I know how useful of a major it can be. However, it really doesn’t matter to me because it just means that I get more time with professors and that’s less competition later in life. But what’s more interesting than this is why economics isn’t popular.

Economics Requires Math

Let’s face it. Who really likes math these days? I’m an economics major, minoring in math, and I don’t even like math a whole lot. Either way, economics requires math. If you want to understand it well, it requires even more math. Much of the time, business majors that just want an economics double major take the bare minimum of math because it helps them look good.

Economics is Very Political

One way that I’ve described economics is that it’s the most political non-political major that I’ve seen. The laws of economics seem quite conservative, which is an issue for liberal economists. It’s problematic for them because there are many things that clash with their political views (especially when it comes to minimum wage increases). Minimum wage increases, international trade, labor markets, and fixing economic issues are all topics in politics that can be very divided.

There are actually a lot of people who were in politics that majored in economics. Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Paul Ryan, just to name a few. There were plenty of other famous people who majored in economics, too. Some of these people include Donald Trump, Arianna Huffington, Steve Ballmer, Tiger Woods, Arnold Scharwzenegger, and Warren Buffett. The problem that some people have, politically, is that they don’t want to major in what Republicans majored in if they’re running for office.

On the flip side, those who don’t agree with the $15 minimum wage easily find out that Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s socialist councilwoman, has a PhD in economics and then argues with themselves about whether it’s a good major or if she’s just bad at it. Personally, I believe that she knows the rules and laws of economics, she just breaks them and says, “To hell with it” just because she thinks something should be done the socialist way.

Economics Has a Lot of Theory

Something funny about economics is that there’s a lot of theory, so it requires al to of thinking. I say that this is funny because many people really don’t want to think. They just want to get in, get their degree, and get out. Of course, critical thinking is said to be required in other majors. But it’s just not the same as in economics.

In economics courses, professors tend to ask what happens to the economy when something in it occurs (i.e. What do you think happens to the economy when we print money and pump more of it into the economy?). You have to use the knowledge from previous courses, as well as the course you’re in, to answer and learn. Much of the time, if you’re wrong, you’ll learn as you listen to other people answer the same as you would have.

So why does the theory behind everything make economics so unpopular as a primary major? Well, interestingly enough, there are a lot of reasons. But I think the biggest reason is because it makes people think that economics has a lot of uncertainty. In economics, the answer to a lot of economic questions is frequently, “It depends.” In short, finding an answer in economics requires thinking of two answers and figuring out what’s going on in your professor’s hypothetical economy.

Economics is a Better Major

Little-known fact: Economics is a much better major than general business, finance, or accounting if you’re looking for a job that’s outside of those areas. Many people who do well with economics will sometimes go on to law school, medical school, or even to an MBA program. Usually, the reason why economics majors do well in these areas after their undergraduate program is because economics is a major that requires critical thinking.

So if economics is a better major, then why don’t more people make it their primary major? If you look online, you’ll find articles from 2013 asking why people are flocking to economics as a major. Maybe 2013 had a surge of economics majors, but it’s not like that anymore. I think part of it is because people think too hard about what their major is called. If someone wants to major in finance, accounting, or business administration, then they usually have their mind set on majoring in finance, accounting, or business administration.

This was part of the case with someone that I met at BYU-Idaho. He wanted to be a finance major. He didn’t care that economics was a better major for him. He actually liked the classes. But he was just so set on what his major was called that he couldn’t swallow his pride. Most job listings that I’ve seen listing a major in finance as a requirement usually lists economics as well.


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