Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

An Exploratory Study of Differences in Students' Views of the Market System

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

An Exploratory Study of Differences in Students' Views of the Market System

Article excerpt


This study uses the survey instrument (Market Attitude Inventory, MAI) developed by Breeden and Lephardt (2002) and Lephardt and Breeden (2005). The 2002 paper was an empirical study that used a survey instrument first developed by the authors in 1992 and refined over the next decade. The 2002 study involved 406 student responses in three different economics courses during two time periods (1992 and 1999). The authors found "significant differences in attitudes between demographic subcategories and between classes of students, as well as changes in attitudes over the time elapsed" (Breeden and Lephardt 2002, 154). The 2005 study provides the development and underpinnings of the survey instrument used in the 2002 paper. In many ways, the methodology set forth in the Lephardt and Breeden study of 2005 preceded the 2002 study. The authors noted two factors that motivated them to develop the MAI. One factor was a long-term research agenda involving "the evaluation of the relationship between an individual's attitudes toward the market system and achievement of economic success within that system" (Lephardt and Breeden 2005, 63). The second factor was the absence of any valid survey instrument "that measured the values and attitudes people hold toward the market system" (Lephardt and Breeden 2005, 63).

The survey instrument has two sections. The first section of the survey requested demographic data from the individual respondent. Specific questions pertained to the respondent's gender, age, ethnicity, and major field of study.

The second section of the survey instrument was a slightly modified version of the MAI developed by Lephardt and Breeden (2005). The original MAI had 22 statements that measured attitudes towards the market system. For each of the 22 statements, students were asked on the survey instrument to "indicate your level of agreements to each statement by writing a number between '0%' and '100%" for the statement, with '0' indicating "strongly disagree" with the statement and "100%' strongly agree with the statement. Some of the statements portray a positive slant towards a market economy and some portray a negative slant towards a market economy (Thomas and Campbell 2006, 33). The 22 statements in the MAI are prefaced with the clause "In my opinion, the market system in the U.S...." (Lephardt and Breeden 2005, 68). Breeden and Lephardt found "students in more advanced business classes having the most pro-market attitudes" (Breeden and Lephardt 2002, 169). However, since this study focused on first-year students, and first-year students, with minimal exposure to either business or economics in the high school curriculum, might focus on the word "market" in the introductory clause and lose sight of the study's emphasis. Consequently, it was decided that the introductory clause be massaged to read "In my opinion, the economic system in the United States:" (emphasis added). The wording of the 22 statements, however, did not change from the original MAI. Five additional statements that relate to the role of the federal government in a market-based economy were introduced. Hence, the wording of the introductory clause to these five statements (23-27, inclusive) was revised to read "In my opinion, the federal government of the United States should:" All 27 statements are listed in Table 1.


The expanded version of the MAI was administered anonymously during the second week of the semester to students in eight sections of a freshman-level course. The sections ranged in size from 18 to 25 students.

A total of 186 survey instruments were returned but one survey was discarded for incomplete responses. Of the 185 viable surveys, 84 were from young women and 101 returned from young men. Approximately 90 percent (164) of the respondents self-identified themselves as Caucasian while seven respondents self-identified themselves as African-American and seven more self-reported themselves as Hispanic (or Latino/Latina). …

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