If you ask a child in elementary school about what they want from life, they may lack the depth to say “happiness.” However, they may be quite comfortable saying that they would like to be rich or have lots of cars. While you still have time to work on your child’s values, you can use their current answer to your advantage. Particularly, if they are less than enthusiastic about math.
Because if they don’t love math to start off with, perhaps they will be more intrigued by the subject when they find out that it could make them wealthy. A recent analysis in The Economist suggested that it doesn’t matter what college your child ends up in, it’s their field that is important.
“Students concerned about their financial outlook should worry less about their school’s rank and spend more time brushing up on math,” the author wrote.
Why does math matter? Well for starters college matters. A lot. Back in 1972, a college-educated adult would earn 22% more than his degreeless peers. Despite the fear of unemployment, that statistic has gone up to 70%.
Saying that, not all degrees are created equal. The price of college is exorbitant, and only students studying specific degrees tend to make the money that they invested back through their earnings. The students that earn the most study engineering and computer-science, degrees with a hefty component of math. Those students eventually achieve an annual return of 12% over a 20-year period. Business and economics degrees earn an 8.7%.
“Courses in arts or the humanities may pay intellectual dividends but provide more mixed economic returns,” the author wrote.
Another study, from 2013 also found direct links to math and money. The research reported in The Atlantic showed that those who advanced beyond Algebra II were very likely to finish school, go to college and thrive in the workforce. Unemployment rates were also lower among those who did higher math.
Another graph showed the likelihood of a student completing a degree according to the complexity of math subjects that they undertook in high school. A student who studied calculus had more than a 70% chance of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, while someone who completed vocational math had less than a 5% chance.
The Atlantic journalist remarked that the data is best interpreted as a combination of correlation and causation, not one or the other. “Students who show an interest in math and related fields are often drawn into an orbit of higher-paying job opportunities, like finance and consulting.”
In any case, that should be enough evidence to entice your child into interacting with the subject for now.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.