Management versus Economics

I recently became aware* of a paper by Benito Arruñada and Xosé H. Vázquez that attempts to link the outcome of MBA degrees to the different subjects offered – specifically the proportions of  subjects that are based on standard assumptions of rationality and self-interest (called economics subjects in the paper) and those that rely on “human assumptions” (called management subjects in the paper).

In a nutshell they are interested in the proposition that “managers are more successful than business analysts.”

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The analysis is based on FT ranking data and done at the level of the school. The authors do make an attempt to account for he problem of endogeneity of GMAT scores. They conclude that

Controlling for the average quality of their students and some other schools’ characteristics, average salaries are significantly greater for those schools whose core MBA courses contain a higher proportion of management courses as opposed to courses based on economics or technical disciplines.

However, there is a major problem with the findings it seems to me. They measure the success of the course by average salaries (3 years after graduation). There is no measure of management ability. It seems to me that the authors have fallen into the very mindset that they decry. Measuring manager performance by the salary that the graduate manages to negotiate for themselves is precisely how a (rather poor) economist student might think!

I am not at all surprised that those students who major in management subjects (such as human resource management, negotiations and leadership) are better able to find a high paying job than those who major in Finance and Econometrics, poor tongue-tied geeks that they are.

*via Nick gruen at Clubtroppo


Author: Chris J. Lloyd

Professor of Business Statistics, Melbourne Business School

One thought on “Management versus Economics”

  1. Chris,
    average salary seems like a very practical measure of business success to me, seems to have worked well in the banking and finance industry in the US. I mean what other measure could business success be measured by 🙂
    More seriously, firstly it’s doing its analysis on the level of schools,  so it’s saying that Schools that include more management courses over economics courses produce higher salary graduates, so one would assume that the proportion of glib-tongued managers versus poor tongue-tied geeky econometricians in an MBA degree in a School would be relatively similar. Perhaps not, but do you have a sense that different MBAs have differing proportions?
    As well, I would think that in recent years, the proportion of  geeky tongue-tied finance-oriented MBA graduates going in to very highly paid finance industry jobs would have to be higher than the proportion of glib-tongued managerial MBAs.
    Finally, I’ve never met a tongue-tied MBA student, do such strange beasts exist at all?


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