I like this working paper, and not just because it reinforces my prejudices.

“This data suggests that the presence of an unrestricted-entry business program has a positive impact on the satisfaction levels of economics majors,” the authors write. “When such programs exist, the economics major is not forced to balance both the goals of students who would rather be in business programs with the goals of students who would study economics either way; therefore the economics major can more easily suit all of its students’ demands.”

Admittedly, this work is based on a broad universe of schools but the central message is that it is a bad idea to put students who are interested in economics (because they like economics) in the same major as students who are taking economics because they are interested in business/finance careers. Now, we would no more want a “business” major at Williams then we would want a major in bookkeeping. But splitting the economics department into two parts (Economics and Finance) would make both parts better off. Both departments would have a critical mass of majors and would be better able to tailor their requirements and course offerings for their students. (A Finance Department would also steal away more than a few math majors.) Any department with more 50 majors is too big.

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