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How do young people choose college majors?

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  • Montmarquette, Claude
  • Cannings, Kathy
  • Mahseredjian, Sophie

Abstract

Previous studies on the determinants of the choice of college major have assumed a constant probability of success across majors or a constant earnings stream across majors. Our model disregards these two restrictive assumptions in computing an expected earnings variable to explain the probability that a student will choose a specific major among four choices of concentrations. The construction of an expected earnings variable requires information on the student's perceived probability of success, the predicted earnings of graduates in all majors and the student's expected earnings if he (she) fails to complete a college program. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we evaluate the chances of success in all majors for all the individuals in the sample. Second, the individuals' predicted earnings of graduates in all majors are obtained using Rumberger and Thomas's (1993) regression estimates from a 1987 Survey of Recent College Graduates. Third, we obtain idiosyncratic estimates of earnings alternative of not attending college or by dropping out with a condition derived from our college major decision-making model applied to our sample of college students. Finally, with a mixed multinominal logit model, we explain the individuals' choice of a major. The results of the paper show that the expected earnings variable is essential in the choice of a college major. There are, however, significant differences in the impact of expected earnings by gender and race. Les études antérieures sur les déterminants du choix d'une filière universitaire ont présumé une probabilité constante de succès entre les différentes filières d'études ou des revenus constants entre les filières. Notre modèle dépasse ces deux hypothèses restrictives en construisant une variable de revenus anticipés pour expliquer la probabilité qu'un étudiant choisisse une filière parmi quatre domaines de spécialisation. La construction d'une variable de revenus anticipé

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

Volume (Year): 21 (2002)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 543-556

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:21:y:2002:i:6:p:543-556

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

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References

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  1. Lee, Lung-Fei, 1983. "Generalized Econometric Models with Selectivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(2), pages 507-12, March.
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  12. Zalokar, Nadja, 1988. "Male-Female Differences in Occupational Choice and the Demand for General and Occupation-Specific Human Capital," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(1), pages 59-74, January.
  13. Blakemore, Arthur E & Low, Stuart A, 1984. "Sex Differences in Occupational Selection: The Case of College Majors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 157-63, February.
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  17. Cannings, K. & Montmarquette, C. & Mahseredjian, S., 1994. "Major Choice: Undergraduate Concentrations and the Probability of Graduation," Cahiers de recherche 9419, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  18. Rumberger, Russell W. & Thomas, Scott L., 1993. "The economic returns to college major, quality and performance: A multilevel analysis of recent graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, March.
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  22. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Adolescent Econometricians: How Do Youth Infer the Returns to Schooling?," NBER Chapters, in: Studies of Supply and Demand in Higher Education, pages 43-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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