What Led Eminent Economists to Become Economists?

29 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2011

See all articles by Brent A. Evans

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; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University of South Australia

Date Written: July 1, 2011

Abstract

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.

JEL Classification: A2

Suggested Citation

Evans, Brent A. and Grimes, Paul W. and Becker, William E., What Led Eminent Economists to Become Economists? (July 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1887804 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1887804

Brent A. Evans (Contact Author)

Mississippi State University - College of Business ( email )

Mississippi State, MS 39762-0964
United States

Paul W. Grimes

Pittsburg State University ( email )

101 Kelce Center
Pittsburg, KS 66762
United States
620-235-4590 (Phone)
620-235-4578 (Fax)

Mississippi State University - College of Business ( email )

Box 9580
326 McCool Hall
Mississippi State, MS 39762-0964
United States
662-325-1987 (Phone)
662-325-1977 (Fax)

William E. Becker

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Economics ( email )

Wylie Hall Room 105
Bloomington, IN 47405-6620
United States
812-855-3577 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of South Australia

37-44 North Terrace, City West Campus
Adelaide, South Australia 5001
Australia

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