College Major Influences Political Beliefs

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

According to a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (pdf), you are what you major in. More specifically, what you choose to study influences your political beliefs and civic behavior later in life.

Researchers at the Fed looked at students who chose to study economics in the years 1976, 1986, and 1996 at four universities: Florida Atlantic, Purdue, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Among their findings: The more econ classes a person took in college, the more likely they were to be a Republican. Students who majored in business were less likely to engage in time-consuming activities, such as voting in the 2000 presidential election, or volunteering for a cause.

The study concludes:

Most previous studies that look at the link between education and civic behavior simply
include a control for the amount of education a person has. This implies “being educated”
influences a person’s civic behavior, but it ignores the possibility that the content of what a
person is learning might also influence behavior. ... 
... But our results clearly suggest there is more to the story than simply
“being educated” – so that what people study in college, or what they choose to study, is
associated with their civic behaviors many years after they graduate.
Via The New York Times Economix blog
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