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College Majors and the Knowledge Content of Jobs

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  • Freeman, James A.

    ()
    (Wheaton College)

  • Hirsch, Barry

    ()
    (Georgia State University)

Abstract

College students select their majors for a variety of reasons, including expected returns in the labor market. This paper demonstrates an empirical method that links a census of U.S. degrees and fields of study with measures of the knowledge content of jobs. The study combines individual wage and employment data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) with ratings on 27 knowledge content areas from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), thus providing measures of the economy-wide knowledge content of jobs. Fields of study and the corresponding BA degree data from the Digest of Education Statistics for 1976-77 through 2001-02 are linked to these 27 content areas. We find that the choice of college major is responsive to changes in the knowledge composition of jobs and, more problematically, the wage returns to types of knowledge. Women’s degree responsiveness to knowledge content appears to be stronger than men’s, but their response to wage returns is weak.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2941.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Publication status: published in: Economics of Education Review, 2008, 27 (5), 517-535
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2941

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Keywords: returns to schooling; college majors; job knowledge content; occupations; O*NET;

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References

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  1. Robst, John, 2007. "Education and job match: The relatedness of college major and work," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 397-407, August.
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  4. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2002. "Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major," Working Papers, Duke University, Department of Economics 02-26, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  5. Katharine G. Abraham & Melissa A. Clark, 2003. "Financial Aid and Students' College Decisions: Evidence from the District of Columbia's Tuition Assistance Grant Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports, Mathematica Policy Research 3675, Mathematica Policy Research.
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  7. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
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  9. Finnie, Ross & Frenette, Marc, 2003. "Earning differences by major field of study: evidence from three cohorts of recent Canadian graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 179-192, April.
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  12. Solomon William Polachek, 1978. "Sex differences in college major," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 31(4), pages 498-508, July.
  13. Boudarbat, Brahim & Montmarquette, Claude, 2007. "Choice of Fields of Study of Canadian University Graduates: The Role of Gender and their Parents’ Education," IZA Discussion Papers 2552, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  15. Julian R. Betts & Laurel L. McFarland, 1995. "Safe Port in a Storm: The Impact of Labor Market Conditions on Community College Enrollments," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(4), pages 741-765.
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Cited by:
  1. Maestri, Virginia, 2013. "Promoting scientific faculties: Does it work? Evidence from Italy," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 168-180.
  2. Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2013. "Do psychosocial traits help explain gender segregation in young people's occupations?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 59-73.
  3. Hilmer, Michael J. & Hilmer, Christiana E., 2012. "On the relationship between student tastes and motivations, higher education decisions, and annual earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 66-75.

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