No, the Best Science Students Aren’t Becoming Financiers

No, the Best Science Students aren’t Becoming Financiers A lot of people are worried about the career choices of today’s most talented science and engineering students. And not just their parents. Since the 2008 financial crisis, policy makers, professors, politicians, and others have expressed concern over America’s best and brightest minds electing to work in […]

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No, the Best Scice Studts Ar’t Becoming Financiers

A lot of people are worried about the career choices of today’s most talted scice and gineering studts. And not just their parts.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, policy makers, professors, politicians, and others have expressed concern over ’s best and brightest minds electing to work in finance instead of pursuing pottially more ly valu careers in scice, medicine, and gineering. Just this past April, Haard economics professor Sdhil Mullainathan wrote in the New York Times, “Many of the best studts are not going to re cancer, teach, and inspire the next geration, or embark on careers in public seice. Instead, large numbers are becoming traders, brokers, and bankers.”

Reports lamting a shortage of STEM talent have only stoked the debate over Wall Street “brain drain.” The assumption is that massive finance salaries are luring graduates who would otherwise be making important scitific discoveries and leaving meaningful marks on society.

But a new working paper by Pian Shu, an assistant professor at Haard Business School, suggests that this is not the case. Drawing on a sample of top scice talt — 6,469 people who graduated from MIT betwe 2006 and 2012 — Shu shows that Wall Street is not attracting the best future scitists and gineers out of college (or at least, not the ones from MIT); they either continue on to grad school, or take a job in those fields. Rather, she finds that studts who ultimately go into finance are differt from those who pursue scice in terms of their academic achievemts and the ways they spd their time. This implies that the two sectors ar’t actually competing for the same talt.

That said, it’s easy to see where the concerns come from: Finance was the most popular industry among MIT graduates tering the labor market, with 8.4% of MIT graduates taking jobs in finance after graduation. That’s 25% more grads than wt into computer and information technology, the most popular industry in the scice and gineering category. Nearly a quarter of graduates tering finance had a scice background, usually in gineering, math, or physics.

But Shu, who got her doctorate at MIT, found that, on average, the graduates who wt into finance were not as academically accomplished as those who took to the scices: they had lower GPAs and took fewer courses. Only 6.5% of graduates with top GPAs wt into finance after graduation, while those from the bottom of the grade distribution were 16.5% more likely to ter finance. In other words, among this elite sample of studts, those with the best grades seem less amored by Wall Street.

While  grades don’t mean everything, they are an important marker of someone with scitific pottial. “[The] production of knowledge, especially in scice and gineering, is highly cumulative,” Shu told me. “A solid understanding of the field helps produce innovation.” She also used data from studt sueys to examine other measures of academic , like how well studts knew professors and how they felt their thinking skills improved. The results reinforce her main findings: Grads tering scice and gineering are twice as likely to report knowing faculty members well and to report that their analytical and critical-thinking skills improved during college.

Future financiers, meanwhile, were 50% more likely to join a fraternity or sorority, a decision they typically made during their ft semester of freshman year.

Notably, the two groups of studts started showing differt preferces ev before tering college. In high school, studts who would ultimately ter finance were much more likely to take leadership positions in varsity sports and studt clubs like community seice, studt governmt, and studt publications. Graduates who tered scice and gineering were more likely to do performing arts like music or ther.

It’s important to note, of course, that there are plty of individuals who didn’t fit these patterns — the paper is a look at the evidce on average. But a logical question does pop up here: Are would-be financiers just as at scice as the scitists — they simply don’t try as hard at it, because they’re already planning to go into finance? Shu’s re suggests the answer is no, “unless you believe that everyone knows exactly what they want to do career-wise at the start of college, which is probably a stretch.” She mostly rules out the possibility that financiers are making differt choices specifically to prepare for their respective careers, since differces in GPA and activities appear early and persist. Moreover, in inteiews with MIT graduates, she learned that many of those who ded up in finance didn’t know about the industry wh they ft got to MIT; they learned about it their sophomore or junior year.

Wh I asked how salary might affect studts’ career choices, Shu responded, “Future income still matters, but it matters at a later stage and is conditional on some of the decisions you’ve made already.” In other words, people may choose finance if they’re motivated by more money, but again, they’ve likely already demonstrated differt preferces in terms of their academic achievemt and activities, beginning in high school.

Together, these results suggest that Wall Street “brain drain” may be overstated. One explanation Shu offers in her paper is that finance may prize certain specialized and analytical skills less than scice and gineering sectors do, and it may call for other things, like social skills, more. “Finance does not attract the ‘best and brightest’ future scitists and gineers from MIT, but perhaps it hires those who will be most suited to working in finance,” she writes.

The financial crisis, however, did have a striking impact on the overall likelihood that MIT graduates will d up on Wall Street. Shu found that those who graduated betwe 2009 and 2012 were 45% less likely to choose finance than those who graduated betwe 2006 and 2008. Despite this, there was no evidce that the most accomplished studts changed their academic in response to the crash. Only a very small proportion of studts did, and all of them were closer to the bottom of the class in terms of their college-try qualifications.

Because the data only included MIT graduates, these results ar’t meant to explain the effect of finance on career decisions throughout the economy. Shu says they may not geralize to all liberal arts colleges, or ev average scice and gineering programs. Rather, these findings mainly speak to the conctration of top talt at the most elite schools in these fields — Caltech, Berkeley’s College of gineering, and Haard’s School of gineering and Applied Scices.

But wh people worry about Wall Street luring away the “best and brightest,” they arguably have this elite group in mind.

“The MIT grads are very, very productive,” Shu said. “Understanding their career choices matters.”

This article was uated at 10:55am ET.

No, the Best Scice Studts Ar’t Becoming Financiers


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No, the Best Science Students Aren’t Becoming Financiers A lot of people are worried about the career choices of today’s most talented science and engineering students. And not just their parents. Since the 2008 financial crisis, policy makers, professors, politicians, and others have expressed concern over America’s best and brightest minds electing to work in […]

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How To Really REALIZE DREAMS COME TRUE?

Happiness is for those who plan well and pursue. A profound among us have been proven those who have true dream to live for likely REALIZED IT. It is just simply the person working toward the DREAM days and night until accomplishment. There is a phrase of efficiency a head of you. Steps and obstacles at first seem tremendous. However, just with some times those difficult steps and challenges are so easy performance for you. There are also plenty of tools including VISUALIZATIONS and helps are around you.

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