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I was going through an article on The Economist about returns of higher education and comparison of returns of various fields of study when I encoutered aforementioned phrase. It was quoted in the context of comparing the returns from liberal arts and humanities to those from engineering degrees.

Can somebody explain what it means? I get the 'fatten the wallet' part, but what is meant by the first part of the phrase?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Further to the answer above, it is saying that both liberal arts/humanities degrees and engineering degrees are worthwhile from the perspective of 'nourishing the soul.' The meaning of this would be something like 'self-actualization.'
However, as mentioned by andy, the financial return on degrees ('fatten the wallet') varies. Usually engineers make way more money.

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I found the stance of the article interesting, and not one I altogether agree with. But the OP didn't ask whether I agreed! – andy256 Apr 4 '14 at 3:50
Sorry! Where I am from engineers do, in general, make much more money. – badpanda Apr 4 '14 at 3:52
I don't doubt that fact. It is the underlying question I see as flawed :-) Not everyone can succeed as an Engineer, nor can everyone succeed in the Arts. – andy256 Apr 4 '14 at 3:55

Fatten [your] wallet means to have more money.

The writer is putting the view that arts graduates will not earn as much as engineers after graduation.


The writer is not literally referring to the soul; he means that any degree has the effect of improving people's minds, thinking, and self image.

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Hey @andy256, I get the latter part of the phrase, what is meant by the former? – abhinavkulkarni Apr 4 '14 at 5:30

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