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Allgood, Sam; Bosshardt, William; van der Klaauw, Wilbert; & Watts, Michael (2004). What Students Remember and Say about College Economics Years Later. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings, 94(2), 259-265.


In his presidential address to the American Economic Association, George Stigler (1963) offered the provocative hypothesis that students would retain very little knowledge from principles courses in economics five years or more after taking the courses. The few empirical studies that have been published on this topic generally found no or small lasting effects, at least for those who took fewer than four courses (see e.g., G. L. Bach and Phillip Saunders, 1965; Gerald J. Lynch, 1990). That raises even broader questions about the long-term effects of studying economics in college, in terms of individuals’ behavior as consumers, workers, and
voters, which we are now beginning to investigate using both survey and transcript data. We have two major goals in this study. First, we want to learn how students perceive their classroom experience in economics courses years after leaving school, both in absolute terms and compared to other courses they took.
We drew samples of economics, business, and other majors, who attended our four universities in 1976, 1986, and 1996, and asked which topics regularly covered in economics courses they now viewed as being most (and least) important. We asked whether they now viewed the economics courses they took as interesting, important, too difficult, or too abstract. We also compared their perceptions of teaching methods and grading rigor in economics courses to those developed in other courses.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings


Allgood, Sam
Bosshardt, William
van der Klaauw, Wilbert
Watts, Michael