The Hidden Superpower: 7 Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Economics

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Economics is the 15th most popular major in the U.S. But, students don’t have to major in Economics to take an economics course and reap the benefits. They don’t even need to be an expert at math. 

From learning about whether to rent or buy a house to understanding why the prices of gas vary so much in any given year, students can learn practical and useful skills by taking economics courses -- and perhaps choose it as a minor or secondary area of study. One might even say that economics can be like a superpower that helps students to make decisions throughout their lives. 

We have pulled together seven reasons why students should consider taking an economics class -- even if they don’t plan on majoring in it.

  1. Is Taylor Swift Underpaid? Understanding the Game of Supply and Demand: Economics can help students to better grasp the art of balancing supply and demand, a concept that demonstrates how the prices of things are determined in a market. By analyzing market trends and consumer behavior they may be able to better predict when the price of their, say, favorite sneakers or purse will drop, or why their concert ticket prices are high. Great examples of real-life applications that demonstrate how economic concepts like supply and demand play out in the real world can be found in an article about the economics of a Taylor Swift concert by Paul Krugman or Economics and Essentials of Economics by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

  2. Every Decision is an Economic Decision. Mastering Opportunity Costs to Make Wise Choices: Most students have been faced with the decision of whether they should study for that test or do something a bit more fun, like watch a movie or go to a party. Whether or not they know it, that decision is an economic one -- the principle of opportunity costs. Taking an economics class will help them to better understand that there’s a cost to what they give up when they choose one option over another. Principles of Economics authors Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers present a framework in their title that argues that every decision is an economic decision and demonstrate throughout how economic principles can be used by students to make better decisions in their own lives.

  3. Who isn’t Looking to Save Money? Becoming a Savvy Consumer: Is that sale the best deal a student can get for a new laptop, or should they wait to buy one? Economics can help turn students into savvy and strategic shoppers. In an economics class, students learn about pricing strategies, how to manage their resources more effectively, and even be able to spot some misleading advertising and marketing tricks.

  4. Is Pizza Alone Enough? Exploring the Power of Incentives: Another challenge students face -- especially early on in college -- is having to move frequently. They may try to entice friends with offers of pizza, a night out on the town, or even promises to help them when they move. But are those incentives enough to help? Maybe some garlic bread and refreshments may make their friends more inclined to help. Economics reveals how incentives work and how people respond to rewards and punishments. Specifically, how both are used to encourage people to take certain actions or make certain choices. Modern Principles of Economics by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok demonstrates the importance of incentives and covers the topic in great detail with an entire chapter dedicated to it.

  5. Why is it Impossible to Choose? Embracing Decision-Making and Critical Thinking: Not every student starts college confident about what major they want to choose. They can use skills gained in an economics class to help them decide by considering what they value the most and what they’re willing to give up in order to get it. For example, if a student is passionate about studying the world around them and is not sure whether they’re more interested in biology or astronomy, they can learn how to weigh which are of study they may like more and would give them a more fulfilling career against what it would cost for them to achieve the desired outcome -- whether it be a high salary, the ability to work in the field, or something else entirely. Economics classes can help sharpen decision-making abilities by teaching students how to think critically, evaluate costs and benefits, and assess risks. 

  6. Can you Measure GDP by How Happy a Country is? Gaining a Global Perspective: Did you know that the government of Bhutan doesn't measure their well-being through gross domestic product, but through a Gross National Happiness Index. Whether talking about dollars, euros or shekels, students can discover how countries interact as it relates to their economies. They’ll learn about international trade, exchange rates, the impact of international agreements and treaties. Understanding the global economy can help students discover more about our interconnected world (and possibly a fun global job as well). There’s a Macmillan Learning title that looks at economics specifically from this perspective: Economics: Principles for a Changing World by Eric Chiang.

  7. How do Sports Play into Economics? Understanding that Economics is Everywhere. Even in sports. Students can learn about one of their favorite pastimes and how economics impacts so much of it -- from ticket prices, to how much athletes get paid, to why some teams are more profitable than others. One of Macmillan Learning’s titles, Sports Economics by David Berri, even has a section dedicated to “Why People Hate the Yankees.”

No matter students' reasons for studying economics -- and whether it be for a class or a lifetime -- they can reap the benefits for years to come. Economics is a vast field that allows students to explore human behavior, societal issues, and the workings of our intricate economic systems. 

Learn more about Macmillan Learning’s catalog of Economics textbooks and the experts that write them here.