Thursday, November 03, 2022

One paper says studying economics does not make you more selfish and another says it does

The first paper says no.

From UMass Amherst.

"Working Paper Number


Publication Date



It is widely held that studying economics makes you more selfish and politically conservative. We use a difference-in-differences strategy to disentangle the causal impact of economics education from selection effects. We estimate the effect of four different intermediate microeconomics courses on students’ experimentally elicited social preferences and beliefs about others, and policy opinions. We find no discernible effect of studying economics (whatever the course content) on self-interest or beliefs about others’ self-interest. Results on policy preferences also point to little effect, except that economics may make students somewhat less opposed to highly restrictive immigration policies.


UMass Amherst Open Access Policy

Recommended Citation

Girardi, Daniele; Madhurika Mamunuru, Sai; Halliday, Simon D.; and Bowles, Samuel, "Does Economics Make You Selfish?" (2021). Economics Department Working Paper Series. 304.
Retrieved from"

This paper says yes. Isolating nature from nurture: Does exposure to business and economics education make students more selfinterested? by Mattias Sundemo and Åsa Löfgren of The University of Gothenburg.

"Does exposure to business and economics education make students more self-interested and less interested in a career that would contribute to a better society? Using a panel dataset of more than 900 individuals from a European Business School we are able to isolate the role of self-selection from possible education or nurture-effects on prosocial (altruistic) values and attitudes associated with exposure to business and economics education. The school in this study, as well as many other contemporary business schools in this part of the world, have for many years integrated issues of sustainability, responsibility and ethics into their business and economics education. Still, after all these efforts, our results indicate that business and economics students become significantly less prosocial during their program studies, and importantly, we find no such effect among students from other disciplines. Further, we find that prosocial attitudes significantly correlate with prosocial behavior (measured by donation in an incentivized charity dictator game). We also provide evidence for highly heterogeneous effects with regards to majors (accounting, management, finance, economics etc.). Finally, we find notable and significant gender differences that largely persist throughout university education." 

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