Recently, UR moved Economics from a social science to a STEM major. At first glance, I can see how economics could be classified as a social science — economics is the study of human behavioral responses to incentives. But if we take a closer look into economics, we can see that it’s actually much more methodical and scientific.
Human behavior is driven by our need to satisfy our wants according to our values. We always behave in our own self-interest, so, human behavior is actually very predictable. This is what gave rise to supply and demand curves, which are used to predict markets. Numerous mathematical equations are used in economics to model human behavior in a particular market.
In my economics classes, I am often drawing supply and demand curves, and calculating the area under the curves to calculate consumer surplus, welfare, deadweight loss, and the like. This is the same type of math STEM fields deal with: drawing graphs, using equations to model and predict behavior, calculus and integration. As both a BME and Financial Economics major, I see the similarities in each field. It’s the same kind of work, just different equations and variable names.
I think the move accurately reflects what is currently being done in class and in the field of economics. This change also signals more honestly to students what they should expect in this field and helps them determine whether or not this major is a good fit. Many students have walked into an economics class expecting something closer to psychology, just to change out later on. On the other hand, this change attracts STEM-oriented students who may have otherwise written economics off as not scientific.
Reclassifying economics as STEM is not without problems, however. Those who had planned to use Economics as a social science cluster will have to rethink their plans. I think this policy should be effective for the class of 2023 onwards.
Still, I think this is a positive change for the University, as the switch helps many international students searching for jobs after graduation. This could serve as a precedent for many changes to come at the University.