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Risk Aversion And Major Choice: Evidence From Italian Students

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  • Maria De Paola

    ()

  • Francesca Gioia

    ()
    (Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica, Università della Calabria)

Abstract

Does the choice of the field of study depend on individual risk aversion? The direction of the relationship between individual risk attitudes and type of college major chosen is potentially ambiguous. On the one hand, risk adverse individuals may prefer majors allowing high returns on the labour market; on the other hand, if these majors expose students to a higher probability of dropping out, those who are more risk adverse may be induced to choose less challenging fields. Using data from a sample of students enrolled in 2009 at a middle-sized Italian public University, we find that, controlling for a large number of individual characteristics, including cognitive abilities, personality traits and family background, more risk adverse students are more likely to choose any other field (Humanities, Engineering and Sciences) compared to Social Sciences. We interpret this result considering that some of these fields, such as Humanities, allow to reduce the risk of dropping out, while others (such as Engineering and Sciences)involve a lower risk on the labour market. It also emerges that the effect of risk aversion on major choice is related to student ability. Risk adverse students characterized by high abilities tend to prefer Engineering, while the propensity of risk adverse students to enrol in Humanities decreases when ability increases, suggesting that the attention paid to labour market risks and drop out risks varies according to student skills.

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File URL: http://www.ecostat.unical.it/RePEc/WorkingPapers/WP07_2011.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza (Ex Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica) in its series Working Papers with number 201107.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:clb:wpaper:201107

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Postal: Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza, Ponte Pietro Bucci, Cubo 0/C, I-87036 Arcavacata di Rende, CS, Italy
Phone: +39 0984 492413
Fax: +39 0984 492421
Web page: http://www.unical.it/portale/strutture/dipartimenti_240/disesf/
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Keywords: Risk aversion; College choice; Education;

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References

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  1. Belzil, Christian & Leonardi, Marco, 2007. "Can risk aversion explain schooling attainments? Evidence from Italy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 957-970, December.
  2. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  3. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," Working Papers 2001-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Alexandra C. Achen & Paul N. Courant, 2009. "What Are Grades Made Of?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(3), pages 77-92, Summer.
  5. Charlotte Christiansen & Juanna Schröter Joensen, 2006. "The Risk-Return Trade-Off in Human Capital Investment," Economics Working Papers 2006-02, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  6. Giorgio Di Pietro & Andrea Cutillo, 2006. "University Quality and Labour Market Outcomes in Italy," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 20(1), pages 37-62, 03.
  7. Richard Sabot & John Wakeman-Linn, 1991. "Grade Inflation and Course Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 159-170, Winter.
  8. Paolo Buonanno & Dario Pozzoli, 2009. "Early Labour Market Returns to College Subject," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(4), pages 559-588, December.
  9. Montmarquette, Claude & Mahseredjian, Sophie & Houle, Rachel, 2001. "The determinants of university dropouts: a bivariate probability model with sample selection," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 475-484, October.
  10. Asena Caner & Cagla Okten, 2008. "Risk and Career Choice: Evidence from Turkey," Working Papers 0803, TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Department of Economics.
  11. Maria De Paola, 2010. "The Determinants Of Risk Aversion: The Role Of Intergenerational Transmission," Working Papers 201016, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza (Ex Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica).
  12. Gabriele Ballarino & Massimiliano Bratti, 2009. "Field of Study and University Graduates' Early Employment Outcomes in Italy during 1995-2004," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(3), pages 421-457, 09.
  13. Giorgio Brunello & Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2009. "Peer Effects in Higher Education: Does the Field of Study Matter?," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0092, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  14. Rochat, Denis & Demeulemeester, Jean-Luc, 2001. "Rational choice under unequal constraints: the example of Belgian higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 15-26, February.
  15. Jeff Grogger & Eric Eide, 1995. "Changes in College Skills and the Rise in the College Wage Premium," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 280-310.
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