The Problem with STEM Advocacy

What happens when you apply Econ 101 to the labor market (H/T Gene Edward Veith at Intercollegiate Review):

Certain Republican governors, Fox News pundits, libertarian think tankers, and others worried about skyrocketing taxpayer-funded student loans that are often impossible to pay back are arguing that students should stop majoring in liberal arts subjects like philosophy and history. Instead, they should major in something practical like business or “STEM subjects” (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). That way our nation’s young people would get good jobs that would enable them to pay back their student loans and contribute to society.

The assumption is that if students would just choose a profession, any profession, that would make them lots of money, all would be well. Now you would think that Republican governors, Fox News pundits, and libertarian think tankers would realize that free market economics, with its laws of supply and demand, applies in the job market. The reason certain jobs command big salaries is that not many people can do them. Conversely, if all college students were to go into the STEM line, both the salaries and the employment rate in these fields would plummet, since the supply would overwhelm the demand. As it is, business majors, scientists,techiesengineers, and math majors are already complaining that they can’t get jobs either.

This highlights an essential feature of the job market. Employers don’t hire degrees; employers hire people with skills who can contribute to the company.


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