Standing Up for Humanities

While STEM subjects are important and practical, economists are jumping to defend humanities majors as well.

Students graduating

Over the past decade, more students have pursued courses in STEM education, especially computer science and engineering. But regrettably, this has had a negative impact on the humanities. English majors, for example, are down more than 25 percent since the Great Recession, according to the National Center for Education Statistics—a dramatic decline even as college enrollment has increased during the same time. 

STEM subjects are important and practical—there are simply more jobs in fields like computer science, engineering and healthcare. At the same time, economists are jumping to defend humanities majors, noting that an understanding of history and the ability to communicate and tell stories is more important than ever. 

By not incorporating narrative into economic theory, “we remain blind to… a crucial element for economic forecasting,” writes Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Schiller. “If we do not understand the epidemics of popular narratives, we do not fully understand changes in the economy and in economic behavior.” A knowledge of history, he adds, is critical to understanding how current events could potentially affect today’s economy.

Schiller and other economic leaders suggest that good storytelling is an essential part of their jobs. Economics isn’t just about the numbers—effectively communicating and interpreting this data in a relatable way is also key to being successful. PM