Journaltalk - Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans

Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans

About this article

Author
  • Zeljka Buturovic
  • Daniel B. Klein
Keywords Economic enlightenment, college education, economic education, schooling
Volume Number 7
Issue Number 2
File URL Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans
File Format PDF
Access no registration, free access
Publication year 2010

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Grouping social sciences
Categories economic, economics

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5 comments

  1. It would appear that assessments of economic awareness (enlightenment, literacy, understanding – the noun is critical) is a growing industry including, of course, the analysis of estimated awareness in terms of the respondents’ socioeconomic indicators (income, education, political affiliation, etc.). One might hope, over time, to see some intelligent “standardization” of questions, methodology, etc. in what absolutely should be at least an annual exercise.

    Toward this hoped-for standardization (not meaning necessarily any single standard), this study is positively groundbreaking. I am so impressed with its methodology that I hope at least one of the standards evolves from it.

    This is not to say that what I’ll call the Year One version of the study was perfect. The article notes a shortcoming that I would regard as the greatest one I can think of: the lack of propositions chosen or worded so as to challenge respondents of a conservative/libertarian bent. For example: “By raising drug prices, government intervention in distribution of illicit drugs reduces their use.” Enlightened answer is “Yes,” but government intervention challenges libertarians’ beliefs (and favors conservative ones). The eight questions in the survey did not have any questions like this, as the article noted.

    The indictments of the American academy on the score of promoting (or frustrating) economic literacy are among the most-valuable products of this inquiry, and its conclusions along this line provide by far the most-attractive object for attention by college students, their parents, professors, and college administrators.

    The distortion and dismissal of economics as a study essential to the material and spiritual welbeing of mankind may be the most vital element on the cultural/didactic agenda of this century.

    posted 10 Jun 2010 by N. Joseph Potts

  2. Nate Silver (pollster and renowned baseball statistician) takes issue with the methodology of this survey, do the authors have a response?

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/06/are-you-smarter-than-george-mason.html

    posted 11 Jun 2010 by Gene McTiernan

  3. I enjoyed this article but I have a concern that the questions are not truly measuring “economic enlightenment”, but rather how readily individuals repeat the platitudes of their respective parties. A person who has little economic education could potentially appear to be economically enlightened simply by repeating the standard catch phrases of the Republican or Libertarian parties, without actually understanding the economic logic which makes their position correct. Is this person really enlightened?

    I agree with Mr. Potts that it is necessary to have some questions that would challenge the libertarian and conservative positions. Such questions might show that respondents answer correctly by and large when the answer conforms with their party’s standard phrasing.

    I may come to be a libertarian or conservative not through the process having thought through the results of various policies, but rather because I was born into a family that professed libertarian or conservative values. I may not know why rent control leads to housing shortages, I just know government intervention is bad (because that’s what I heard at the dinner table), and so I’m against rent control. This could explain the lack of correlation between enlightenment and education.

    posted 13 Jun 2010 by Mark Bonica

  4. That this “survey” passes for anything other than the ridiculous crock it is is extremely troubling. 8 agree or disagree statements, with and admitted political bias (In what way does asking questions which only challenge liberal mentalities give any kind of a useful result measured against political ideology?). What’s more, all but two of the questions could be correctly answered by simply following the “all government action bad” philosophy.

    Especially troubling are the following two questions: “Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited,” and “Free trade leads to unemployment.” The first question is WAY too open to interpretation as to the meaning of the word “exploited,” while the second should certainly be qualified by a statement either limiting it to immediate effect (assuming that this does not contribute positively to specialization, allowing new industries to develop which might suck up the surplus), or at least noting noting that it does not refer to a poorer country which signs a free trade agreement with a richer one.

    The two remaining questions, which aren’t simple “government bad” types, aren’t terrible, but any test that you can score highly on with no knowledge other than “biggest market share does not necessarily equal monopoly, government is bad, and stuff is better than it was” can hardly be said to be an indicator of economic knowledge.

    I don’t know if the authors are trying to push a political ideology as grounded in fact (an easy conclusion to reach, given the giddy, masturbatory response the study has had on arch conservative online publications such as “American Spectator”), but this survey should be fully discounted by every respectable publication as the crock it is. This is the first thing I’ve come across on Econ Journal Watch, so maybe it’s a joke publication, but if not, for shame.

    posted 27 Jun 2010 by Tyler

  5. According to an announcement published this week, a new survey is forthcoming, which includes questions designed to challenge conservative and libertarian sensibilities.

    posted 25 Jan 2011 by John Stephens

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