Image: University of Konstanz

Previous economics education determines success in university study of economics

Longitudinal study at the University of Konstanz provides first findings about the influence of existing economics competencies at the end of formal schooling on the ensuing academic success of economics students.

Economics is one of the most common subjects studied at universities worldwide. A longitudinal study by the Economics and Business Education research team at the University of Konstanz has now discovered: The more knowledge of economics young people gain by the end of their school careers, the more successful they tend to be in studying economics at the university level. A representative sample of German-speaking Swiss students was used to examine the effect of economic competencies at the end of schooling on the academic success of individuals studying economics. According to the results published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, there are clear advantages for students who gained a greater amount of economics knowledge during their school careers.

The study is a joint research project by the University of Konstanz, the University of Zurich and the Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology at the University of Tübingen. It was completed by Michael Jüttler, an academic staff member in the Konstanz research team headed by Professor Stephan Schumann, who also led the project. This was the first time that longitudinal data were used to investigate the influence of existing economics competencies on the ensuing academic success of economics students. Since the initial project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), was located at the University of Zurich, the follow-up study, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, was also conducted in Switzerland. 538 school graduates with a university entrance qualification (Matura) were surveyed.

In contrast to the few previous surveys completed on this topic, the longitudinal data gathered from 2011 to 2016 was based on extensive test results on economic knowledge and skills at the end of secondary schooling and expanded the understanding of competency to include additional aspects such as interest, motivation, attitude and value-oriented dispositions in the area of economics. Participants completed a test to assess their knowledge of economics as it relates to everyday life. Researchers controlled for the effects of factors such as (basic) mathematical, verbal and cognitive abilities, socio-economic background, school performance and other contextual factors (both related and unrelated to school).

The results confirm the importance of economics training in schools for individuals who intend to later study economics. Economics education is also relevant for participating in social and political contexts as an informed citizen. “The subject of economics must therefore receive greater weight in the German school system”, says Michael Jüttler.

Key facts:

  • Original publication: Jüttler, M. (2020). Predicting Economics Student Retention in Higher Education: The Effects of Students’ Economic Competencies at the end of Upper Secondary School on their Intention to Leave their Studies in Economics, PLOS ONE, 5. Februar 2020. DOI:
  • University of Konstanz project publishes first longitudinal findings on the effects of economic competencies on the later academic success of economics students
  • 538 school graduates with university entrance qualification (Matura) surveyed between 2011 and 2016
  • Project participants: Professor Stephan Schumann and Michael Jüttler (University of Konstanz), Professor Franz Eberle (University of Zurich) and Professor Benjamin Nagengast (Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology, Tübingen)
  • Supported by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation (“Netzwerk Bildungsforschung”) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)