An Evaluation on Academic Performance in Intermediate Microeconomics: A Case of Persistence

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ABSTRACT

This paper uses an ordered-probit model on a sample of 488 students who enrolled in intermediate microeconomics. Analysis on the estimated model and further study into the marginal impact of each explanatory variable shows that a phenomenon of persistence can be used to describe final grades in intermediate microeconomics. A strong academic performance in principles of microeconomics translates to a higher probability of earning a high grade in intermediate microeconomics. We also show that mathematical preparation has a positive effect on the grade in intermediate microeconomics as well as enrollment in a remedial mathematics course for students deficient in mathematical preparation when entering college. Gender and academic major do not have a discernable effect on the grade distribution in intermediate microeconomics.

INTRODUCTION

A principles of microeconomics course provides students with a basic understanding of consumer theory and the theory of the firm without the need of calculus. Intermediate microeconomics, on the other hand, presents a more detailed theoretical extension of the principles course with greater emphasis on mathematical concepts covered in a basic business calculus course. Von Allmen and Brower (1998) showed that academic performance in calculus was an important determinant to student performance in intermediate microeconomics. Unfortunately, they used a relatively small sample size (n=99) and did not consider how academic performance in the principles of microeconomics influenced the final grade in intermediate microeconomic theory. This is an important venture in that it helps underscore the learning process in economics. The concept of persistence in the learning process suggests that the final grades in the principles of microeconomics and the intermediate microeconomics courses should be positively correlated.

Literature studying factors influencing academic performance has been very extensive in recent years beginning with a significant number of articles devoted to the economics discipline and expanding to a large number of other business disciplines. The vast majority of work concentrates on student performance in the principles of macroeconomics and the principles of microeconomics courses offered by all universities. The prevalence of studies devoted to the beginning courses in economics is primarily a result of the availability of large data sets due to greater demand for these courses. Spector and Mazzeo (1980) present a study of grades in introductory economics close to the approach of our analysis by utilizing a probit model to determine factors influencing final grades. Borg and Shapiro (1996), Becker and Watts (1999), Ziegert (2000), Marburger (2001), Cohn, Cohn, Balch, and Bradley (2001), Walstad (2001), and Grimes (2002) are a few important examples of studies that discuss evaluation of students and faculty in a principles of economics environment. An equally significant amount of literature has been devoted to teaching methods and techniques in principles of macroeconomics and principles of microeconomics courses. Examples of this growing area of analysis include Sowey (1983), Borg, Mason, and Shapiro (1989), Watts and Bosshardt (1991), Becker and Watts (1996), Raehsler (1999), Vachris (1999), Parks (1999), Oxoby (2001), Becker and Watts (2001a, 2001b), Colander (2003), and Jensen and Owen (2003).

To somewhat of a lesser extent, work has recently been done to determine factors relevant to grades earned by students in upper-level economics courses as well as courses in related business disciplines. Froyen (1996), Salemi (1996), Findlay (1999), Gartner (2001), Borg and Stranahan (2002), Walsh (2002), and Weerapana (2003) represent a good cross section of papers dealing with teaching intermediate macroeconomics and related upper-level economics courses. Becker (1987) and Becker and Greene (2001) are notable examples of research on student performance in business statistics. …