Priceonomics

Percentage of College Students Majoring in Business, 1966-2011

Source: Benjamin Schmidt

The graph above seems to tell a straight-forward story: the business major became very popular in the 1980s. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, right? As discussed by Michael Lewis in Liar’s Poker, MBA grads began their takeover of finance in the 1980s, "Greed is Good" was supposedly the mantra for young business people at the time, and the term "Yuppie" was popularized.

But was the business major really that popular on college campuses during that decade? Perhaps. But it wasn’t men who were flocking to study business according to analysis of what people study in college by Benjamin Schmidt:

Percentage of Male College Students Majoring in Business, 1966-2011

Source: Benjamin Schmidt

The percentage of male college students majoring in business remained pretty consistent in the ‘80s. It was actually women who contributed the most to the rise:

Percentage of Female College Students Majoring in Business, 1966-2011

Source: Benjamin Schmidt

In 1966, only a little over 2% of all women in college studied business. By 1985, that percentage swelled to almost 22%! This time period also corresponded to when women made the greatest gains in entering the US workforce:

Labor Force Participation Rate, 1948-2012. Source: Calculated Risk Blog

So America did got more "business crazy" in the late 1970s and 1980s, but it largely driven by women entering the workforce en masse.

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