In some sense this is a follow-up to

Correlation between salary level and housing prices in a town

There I was reminded to ask for causality, not correlation. I am interested in the causal effect of mathematical education on salaries even if I do not use those words below.

Now, my question is the following: does mathematical education result in a better salary? Here, by mathematical education, I do not mean mathematics as a major but rather a major with heavy mathematics in it. Probably a better formulation is this: is there any literature on whether studying applied mathematics pays off? Again not an Applied Mathematics as a curriculum per se, but a course with heavy applied math content.

  • $\begingroup$ This looks more like a career advice than an economics question. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2018 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ Looks, but not. I am really interested if there is some research on this with data, as to the other question there were such answers. $\endgroup$
    – Gergely
    Aug 8, 2018 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Math is never a good casualty. A person that well verse in math normally come from resourceful family. Though there is outlier from poor family, but by overall, it is still the resourceful family that affect the future salary of a person earn. $\endgroup$
    – mootmoot
    Aug 9, 2018 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree here, learning mathematics does not presume a wealthy family. $\endgroup$
    – Gergely
    Aug 28, 2018 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


Math is easier if you are smarter. As such, math education is a costly and therefore credible signal of general intelligence. Below are two experiments that try to get around this selection issue by looking at exogenous variation in worker mathematical ability on labor market outcomes. However, a word of caution. They do not present evidence that mathematical education makes you more productive. Even if all mathematical education is is a signal of intelligence, it can be valuable to individual workers to get more mathematical education, and they will on average benefit from interventions that lower the cost of getting a mathematical education

We examine the link between math skills and labor-market outcomes using a resume-based field experiment. Specifically, we send fictitious resumes in response to online job postings, randomly assigning some resumes to indicate stronger math skills, and measure employer responses. The resumes that are randomly assigned to indicate stronger math skills receive more interest from employers than the comparison resumes. Our findings add to the body of evidence showing that stronger math skills positively affect labor-market outcomes.

Math skills and labor-market outcomes: Evidence from a resume-based field experiment by Koedel and Tyhurst (2012)

Outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries has increased the focus on the accumulation of skills – such as Math skills – in high-wage count ries. In this paper, we exploit a high school pilot scheme to identify the causal effect of advanced high school Math on labor market outcomes. The pilot scheme reduced the costs of choosing advanced Math because it allowed for at more flexible combination of Math with other courses. We find clear evidence of a causal relationship between Math and earnings for the students who are induced to choose Math after being exposed to the pilot scheme. The effect partly stems from the fact that these students end up with higher education.

Is there a causal effect of high school math on labor market outcomes? by Joensen and Nielsen (2009)

  • $\begingroup$ Does this imply that if poor country put tons of money in teaching math, instead of providing better nutrients, monetary support to the poverty will bring brighter future/higher salary ? $\endgroup$
    – mootmoot
    Aug 9, 2018 at 15:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, because the evidence is consistent with math education serving a pure signaling role $\endgroup$
    – BKay
    Aug 9, 2018 at 19:51

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