The Way Economists Teach Is Distorting Students” Economic Views

”I believe that we actually do harm to our students in only teaching them the intricacies of mathematical models and that we are unintentionally distorting their economic views.” That is the conclusion of Professor Ariel Rubinstein, writing in the March 2006 issue of the Economic Journal.

Professor Rubinstein reports on a survey he carried out in which subjects were asked to imagine themselves the vice-president of a company having to decide whether to maximise the company’s profits by laying off half of the workforce or to make do with firing less than the number required to maximise profits.

The subjects were essentially being presented with a dilemma of how to balance their responsibility to the company”s goals and their commitment to the workers.

The survey was conducted among several groups of Israeli students, mostly from Tel Aviv University.

The results show sharp differences between the economics students and the others. Supporting evidence comes from two follow-up studies Rubinstein conducted among several thousand readers of an Israeli business newspaper and among several dozen graduate economics students at Harvard University.

”A Sceptic”s Comment on the Study of Economics” by Ariel Rubinstein is published in the March 2006 issue of the Economic Journal.

Ariel Rubinstein

professor of economics | Tel Aviv University and New York University. | rariel@post.tau.ac.il