Why are fewer girls studying economics and why does it matter?

10 August 2017


In the past twenty years, Australia has experienced steady economic growth and stability while we have watched many nations around the world juggle and struggle with economic pressures and indeed economic failures if you look at Europe specifically.

Being an island nation far away from the reality of these economic disasters has cushioned our youth from understanding the importance of robust economic planning and the talented individuals who are responsible for that.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons a new report commissioned by the Reserve Bank of Australia on the study of economics at Australian high schools has revealed a worrying decline in enrolments over the past 25 years, particularly for girls.

The data show that female enrolment in economics has declined in all school types, with the smallest drop evident among girls in selective schools, followed by those in non-selective girls’ schools. The largest fall has occurred among girls in non-selective co-educational schools. In 1992, girls comprised half of all economics students in Australian schools, but now they comprise less than one-third, tipping the gender balance firmly in favour of boys.

Why does this matter? Discussing the report during a recent address to the Business Educators Australasia Annual Council Meeting, Jacqui Dwyer, Head of the Reserve Bank’s Information Department, said that the “analytic skills and frameworks acquired in the study of economics can be used to explain or debate much of the world we live in”, from the economic cost of personal decisions we make each day, right through to “the big questions about why various groups in society experience such different outcomes in their economic well-being.”

Members can read the rest of our excellent new abstract here, which delves into the report to pull out the facts you need to know.

The Sydney Morning Herald reveals more of what Head of the Reserve Bank’s information department, Jacqui Dwyer had to say on the matter.