Attitudes toward free markets and interest in pro-market organizations: evidence from students in free enterprise.

Author:King, Amanda S.

It is not surprising that students who study free markets tend to have a positive attitude about free markets. For example, Breeden and Lephardt (2002) find that the higher the level of economics course the surveyed student is enrolled in, the more pro-market the student is. What they do not show, however, is if these students are in higher level economics courses because of their beliefs or if they have these beliefs because they are in higher level economics courses. In this note, we explore this question by examining whether students exhibiting an extracurricular interest in free markets without having necessarily studied economics or business tend to be pro-market. Surprisingly, we find that students who express an interest in joining Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) are actually significantly less pro-market than their peers. Beyond this finding, our characterization of the student interested in SIFE relayed in this note should be useful to anyone recruiting for a business-related student organization.

SIFE is a non-profit organization with teams on college and university campuses around the world. Its mission is to "provide college and university students the best opportunity to make a difference and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of FREE ENTERPRISE" (SIFE USA, 12). As the name implies, SIFE is decidedly business oriented, but strives to attract students from all majors and backgrounds. SIFE team members plan, manage, and implement projects with the goal of teaching others principles that will increase their quality of life. The SIFE team on our campus started its first full year in the fall of 2004 with an intensive recruiting campaign. Student leaders visited approximately 30 classes in the College of Business Administration. We surveyed (1) students from these classes to learn more about the type of student who is likely to be interested in SIFE.

Our work can be linked to two distinct bodies of literature. The first deals with attitudes and beliefs regarding free markets. According to Breeden and Lephardt (2002), male students and students with higher grades in economics courses are more pro-market. Parker, Spears, and Jones (2002) use factor analysis to show that a student's degree of economic conservatism is influenced by locus of control and by gender and personality. Gender and personality are also shown to influence individual economic decision-making in Parker and Spears (2002). Barilla, Parker, and Paul (2005) use the Rotter conceptualization of locus of control to determine student personality types and find that different personality types impact students' perceptions of free markets. Students who believe they have...

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