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Published in American Economic Review 81:2 (May 1991), pp. 26-31. Copyright © 1991 American Economic Association. Used by permission.


The quantity of research on economic education at the college and university level declined during the past decade. In the 1980-90 period, the number of research- related articles on economics instruction in higher education fell by about 17 percent from the number published during the 1969-79 period. A possible reason for this reduction may have been the publication of a review of research on economic education at the college and university level by John Siegfried and Rendigs Fels (1979). This extensive survey may have inadvertently led researchers to believe that most of the major topics at this level had been studied and that further research would not yield in- sights. Another reason could have been the success of the Joint Council on Economic Education in directing resources to precollege issues.

Whatever the reasons for the college-level decline, it is disturbing because we think the teaching of economics in colleges and universities can be improved by research on what influences the delivery and the effectiveness of instruction. In our view, research on economic education at the postsecondary level should be directed to three major areas. First, the multiple outputs from learning economics need to be defined, measured, and investigated so that a fuller range of benefits from studying economics can be incorporated into decisions about courses and degree programs. Second, more emphasis should be placed on the analysis of the economics major, as distinct from individual courses, to enhance the structuring of programs. Third, the replication of earlier research is required to determine the extent to which conclusions drawn from those studies still hold and to relate those findings to new developments.

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