by Tony Moore
Beginning in the fall of 2018, Dickinson will offer a new academic major: quantitative economics. With an emphasis on econometrics, the field of quantitative economics applies mathematical and statistical concepts, models and theories to economic issues. The major’s constituent parts have been integral to the economics program at Dickinson for years. But as a major of its own, quantitative economics brings with it new opportunities.
Emily Marshall, assistant professor of economics, explains that econometrics wasn’t a core requirement for economics majors, but it was nevertheless a cornerstone of the department as an elective. So when the department decided to elevate its status, rather than requiring it for all majors, it was broken out as an entirely new major.
And the major will open new doors for students in valuable ways.
“More and more, our students are finding that employers want their employees to be able to use data,” Marshall says. “And the quantitative economics major is really in line with that. Our major is already highly quantitative, so once we recognized these employment trends—and matching trends in the economics discipline—creating this new major just made sense.”
Marshall says the major will be great for anyone who wants to have a career in economics, consulting, policy evaluation or data analysis—or anyone who wants to go on to graduate school in economics or any related fields. And, of course, like every major at Dickinson, its curriculum is built on the college's expansive and dynamic liberal-arts foundation.
While the new major will provide exciting opportunities for all interested students, for international students, the major’s classification as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a game changer.
“If international students don't have a STEM-eligible major, at the end of their first year after graduating, they have to go into the H-1B visa lottery to hope to stay in the U.S. beyond that one year,” Marshall says, noting that the chance of winning the lottery is only about 20 or 25 percent. Conversely, international students graduating with STEM-eligible degrees are eligible for an extension allowing them stay in the U.S. for three years after graduating. “So this provides a huge additional benefit for those international students who want to work in the U.S. following graduation.”
Quantitative economics majors will now be advised to take econometrics during sophomore year, instead of taking it as an elective during junior or senior year. They’ll also be able to use statistical inference and other data-analysis techniques in their coursework across the curriculum in their junior and senior years, allowing them to apply critical-thinking skills on additional dimensions.
“The earlier students can get these skills, the more we can incorporate students into our research agendas, and the more they’ll be able to market themselves as proficient in statistical software programming and other learning outcomes of the major,” says Marshall, who emphasizes that students will be well versed in the use of formal arguments, numerical computations and empirical analysis. And they’ll have a thorough grasp on the logic, validity and robustness of various explanations for these economic phenomena, and sooner than they would have otherwise.
“It's going to open up more opportunities for students in terms of externships and internships earlier in their college careers,” she adds, noting that some of these opportunities would have been previously out of reach until junior year or later. “It’ll be a big deal when applying to graduate schools and careers, too. We're really excited about it.”
Published May 23, 2018