Barriers and Incentives to Learning Economics

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 10:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Randolph 1
Hosted By: National Association of Economic Educators
  • Chair: Kim Holder, University of West Georgia

Does Mathiness Matter? How Student Perceptions Create Barriers to Economics

Abdullah Al-Bahrani
,
Northern Kentucky University
Whitney Douglas-Buser
,
Young Harris College
Kim Holder
,
University of West Georgia
Darshak Patel
,
University of Kentucky

Abstract

One of the most common obstacles in the economics classroom is facing a student’s disinclination to perform tasks requiring basic quantitative skills. Economics, relative to other disciplines, is particularly bridled by this challenge since mastery of economics requires sufficient mathematical proficiency to elicit anxiety and resistance in many students, but is not widely regarded as math intensive enough to generate a selection effect of highly quantitative students. This paper attempts to measure undergraduate economics student perceptions of their level of “mathiness” or mathematical abilities and anxieties and then identify the impact that these perceptions have on their performance in economics courses. The inclusion of self-identified perceptions allows this paper to build on the previous literature establishing a link between measured quantitative skills and undergraduate economic performance.

A Cross-National Comparison of Gender Effects Among Higher Education Students in Germany, Japan and the United States

Olga Troitschanskaia
,
University of Mainz
Sebastian Bruekner
,
University of Mainz
Manuel Foerster
,
University of Mainz
William B. Walstad
,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Abstract

Across various domains differences in gender specific responding to standardized test items are<br /><br /><br />
frequently detected. Even in assessments of economic knowledge, male participants often score<br /><br /><br />
higher than female participants. This recurring finding has stirred controversial discussions. While<br /><br /><br />
some researchers suggest that gender differences in economics assessment might be due to the use<br /><br /><br />
of standardized testing formats, others believe that gender differences might depend on specific<br /><br /><br />
features of economic knowledge (e.g. economic numeracy vs. economic literacy) (Brückner, Förster,<br /><br /><br />
Troitschanskaia & Walstad 2015). However, most studies on gender effects in assessments of<br /><br /><br />
economic knowledge have focused on secondary education in a specific country. Thus, in the present<br /><br /><br />
study, we analyze gender effects on economic knowledge between countries: Germany, Japan, and<br /><br /><br />
the United States. The data was gathered using the standardized U.S. Test of Understanding in<br /><br /><br />
College Economics (TUCE, Walstad & Rebeck 2008), which was also adapted and used in assessments<br /><br /><br />
in Germany and Japan.<br /><br /><br />
In our presentation, we start with a brief overview of previous research on gender effects on<br /><br /><br />
economic knowledge in those countries as well as potential explanations for gender effects on economic knowledge. Afterwards the assessment instrument and the samples from the three<br /><br /><br />
countries will be described and the results from the empirical analyses based on Item Response<br /><br /><br />
Theory (IRT) will be presented. Our analyses will also include some results on the differences of<br /><br /><br />
gender effects between numeracy and literacy tasks of this test. We close by critically discussing the<br /><br /><br />
results and identifying need for further research.

What is the Value of an Economics Degree?

Ishuan Li
,
Minnesota State University

Abstract

I examine labor market outcomes of graduates from an undergraduate program in economics at a large public university in the Midwest in the United States. In this program, a natural experiment provided the conditions where academically weaker business major students became economics majors by default. Aggregated employment data from the State of Minnesota’s Graduates Employment Outcomes (hourly earnings) for six cohorts (AY 2006-2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) are compared across majors and of programs from public institutions of higher education in Minnesota. Preliminary inferences based on known characteristics of reference group and outcome criteria suggest that an economics degree can improve median hourly earnings of graduates within two to four years from graduation.

An Empirical Analysis of the Effect of Quizzes on Student Effort and Learning Outcomes: Comparisons of Unannounced-Quiz, Announced-Quiz, and No-Quiz

Tin-Chun Lin
,
Indiana University Northwest

Abstract

We developed empirical models to test hypotheses that quizzes (announced or

unannounced) can improve students’ learning outcomes and enhance their investment in effort.

The empirical analysis indicated support for the hypotheses. We further tested the hypothesis that

these two different types of quizzes exert different effective instructional influences on students’

learning. Consequently, evidence from an alternative demonstration indicated that these two

types of quizzes could serve different effective instructional purposes in students’ learning.

Moreover, additional findings showed that quizzes not only provide a shorter-term learning goal

– exam success – but also offer benefits for a longer-term learning goal – retaining information

longer.
Discussant(s)
Carlos Asarta
,
University of Delaware
Kim Holder
,
University of West Georgia
Olga Troitschanskaia
,
University of Mainz
JEL Classifications
  • A2 - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
  • D1 - Household Behavior and Family Economics