Students who advance further in high school math have higher wages and are less likely to be unemployed, according to a new study from the Cleveland Fed. So when Noah Smith and Miles Kimball say there is a "math person" in all of us, listen up.
The study shows that advancing past Algebra II correlates strongly with finishing high school, graduating from college, and thriving in the workforce. Here's your money chart, with "low-math" students to the left and "high-math" students to the right.
This finding (relatively simple as it is, since Algebra II isn't particularly advanced) sits comfortably with a 2001 finding that more-advanced math courses in high school went on to get higher levels of education.
Before you run out to petition your local government to require each graduating high school student to become a calculus pro, I should warn that even the economists behind these reports are cautious about their implications. "It would be a mistake to require all students take calculus," say Heather Rose and Julian R. Bett, the authors of the "Math Matters" paper whose key graph is excerpted above. First, it's not clear our high schools have the teachers necessary to meet that demand for calc. Second, if we force highly advanced math courses on all students, we might be encouraging some students to drop out while the struggling students who remain encourage teachers to water down the work required to complete those courses.