Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Thomas, M. Kathleen

Committee Member

Campbell, Randall C.

Committee Member

Franz, Dana P.

Committee Member

Rogers, Kevin E.

Committee Member

Swinton, John R.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Applied Economics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Business


Department of Finance and Economics


Prior researchers (Anderson et al. 1994; Ballard & Johnson 2004; Hoag & Benedict 2010) have shown that different math abilities do not equally correlate with success in economics, yet no research has specifically compared algebra and geometry skills as predictors of economics success. In the first essay, I find that students’ standardized geometry scores are a much greater predictor of success in economics than standardized algebra test scores. The study uses a rich data set that includes all Georgia public high school students who took a mandatory economics course in 2006, 2007, or 2008. Results from this study provide supporting evidence that utilizing a generic math proxy is probably unwise for researchers modeling economics success. These findings can also be used to strengthen recruitment efforts since geometry scores seem to be a strong predictor of economics aptitude. Although causality cannot be inferred from my findings, it is plausible that a mandatory geometry course prior to economics would improve student outcomes in economics. In the second essay, I analyze the relationship between economics education and macroeconomic policy attitudes of the general public following the financial crisis of 2008. Using survey data of all 50 states, I find that economics literacy is correlated with preferences for three of the six policies preferences studied. Specifically, economics literacy is positively correlated with support for decreased taxes and a smaller government, and negatively correlated with supporting a ceiling on CEO salaries. Additionally, the completion of college and high school economics is positively associated with supporting a decreased role of government. While prior researchers (Roos 2007; Walstad 1997) found that economics literacy can influence policy preferences, there have been no prior studies, to my knowledge, that analyzed the effects of economics knowledge and economics course-taking on policy preferences within the same dataset. My results show that economics literacy and course-taking exert independent effects on macroeconomic preferences for some policies. Thus, any researcher predicting economic preferences should consider controlling for these economics literacy and economics course-taking variables. Furthermore, my findings suggest that the advancing prevalence of economics education could lead to a shift in public preferences.