Calculus Can Make You Rich? Study Finds Challenging Math Classes Lead To Higher Income

November 4, 2013  |  

If you ever challenged yourself and took brain-warping math classes in high school, you’re more likely to be employed than your arithmetic-avoiding counterparts — and richer, too.

According to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, high school students who settle for less-challenging math classes are more likely to be jobless. And when they are employed, they’re likely to have a lower salary than math enthusiasts. “Do you want to be rich?” The Atlantic asks. “Study math. It will give you skills for which you will be rewarded with higher wages in practically every industry.”

The study proves the value of math skills in scholarly achievement and the job market. Among students who took calculus in high school, 70 percent of them went on to get a bachelor’s degree. Only a little more than 10 percent of students who just took Algebra and Geometry classes completed a four-year degree.

With the findings showing great outcomes for those who conquer math, you would think calculus would be a mandatory part of the high school curriculum. But researchers say, “Not so fast!” High schools might not have the teachers for that coursework. And students who don’t get to that level might feel they ought to quit school entirely.

As the economics editor at BloombergBusinessweek notes, it could be that advanced math classes attracts smarter students who are more likely to snag higher incomes. It’s not calculus, per se, that leads to better labor outcome; we should look at the type of students who are taking these classes.

And of course, let’s not neglect the obvious: students who have a passion for math will be introduced to a landscape of higher-paying jobs — STEM careers pay!

And lastly, socioeconomic status can affect a student’s performance in the job market down the line. If he or she has the aptitude for higher-level math, but the school does not offer calculus courses, this may alter the student’s future in the labor market. “Students from higher-income families in higher-income areas are more likely to go to well-funded schools that […]build a culture of calculus-takers staffed with good teachers to make the material accessible,” it concludes.

Did you take higher level classes in high school? How did it affect your employment?

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