What Led Eminent Economists to Become Economists?
Brent A. Evans
Mississippi State University - College of Business
Paul W. Grimes
Pittsburg State University; Mississippi State University - College of Business
William E. Becker
Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Economics; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); University of South Australia
July 1, 2011
The authors analyze the various factors that highly recognized economists cite as reasons for pursuing a career in economics. We obtained data for 62 of the 67 Nobel Laureates in economics and included another 22 prominent economists who have made significant contributions in economic research. Our basic quest was to find how these economists first became interested in the subject. Based on private correspondence, published autobiographies and memoirs, the sample was placed into eight nonexclusive categories; peer influence, paternal and family influence, external guidance, interest sparked by coursework, books, economic theories, general interest in economics and economic events, and the personal urge to make a difference in the world. We also sought to answer the question, “Did your interest in economics precede your entrance into college?” We found little uniformity in the responses - no more than 33 percent of the economists indicated the same factor as contributing to their entry into economics. The timing of the decision to go into economics is also divided - 47 percent of the eminent economists developed an interest prior to college and 53 percent discovered the subject during their college years. Our findings are presented with the intent of informing academic economists and other educators seeking to improve recruitment efforts of top students.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
JEL Classification: A2working papers series
Date posted: July 18, 2011
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