Does an Economics Education Affect Behavior? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment

20 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2013

See all articles by Bryan C. McCannon

Bryan C. McCannon

Illinois Wesleyan University

Jeffery H. Peterson

Saint Bonaventure University

Date Written: February 7, 2013


Does an economics education affect an individual’s behavior? While it has been shown that choices made by those who have studied economics are different, what is unclear is whether differences in behavior are, in fact, due to the education or simply reflect the fact that those who choose to study economics differ from those who do not. This issue is addressed using experimental evidence from the Public Goods Game where individuals either contribute to improve group wealth or free ride. A survey on one’s beliefs regarding appropriate economic policy is administered. This acts as an instrument to separate the selection effects of students who choose to study economics from the impact of the education. It is shown that, accounting for the endogeneity, there is an inverse relationship between the number of economics courses a student has taken and the amount contributed to a public good.

Keywords: economics education, experiment, free ride, Public Goods Game, social preferences

JEL Classification: A2, C91, D01, D64, H41

Suggested Citation

McCannon, Bryan C. and Peterson, Jeffery, Does an Economics Education Affect Behavior? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment (February 7, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Bryan C. McCannon (Contact Author)

Illinois Wesleyan University ( email )

P.O. Box 2900
Bloomington, IL 61702-2900
United States


Jeffery Peterson

Saint Bonaventure University ( email )

Saint Bonaventure, NY 14778
United States
716-375-2082 (Phone)

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