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Math or Science? Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Examine the Process of Choosing a College Major

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Abstract

Due primarily to the difficulty of obtaining ideal data, much remains unknown about how college majors are determined. We take advantage of longitudinal expectations data from the Berea Panel Study to provide new evidence about this issue, paying particular attention to the choice of whether to major in math and science. The data collection and analysis are based directly on a simple conceptual model which takes into account that, from a theoretical perspective, a student’s final major is best viewed as the end result of a learning process. We find that students enter college as open to a major in math or science as to any other major group, but that a large number of students move away from math and science after realizing that their grade performance will be substantially lower than expected. Further, changes in beliefs about grade performance arise because students realize that their ability in math/science is lower than expected rather than because students realize that they are not willing to put substantial effort into math or science majors. The findings suggest the potential importance of policies at younger ages which lead students to enter college better prepared to study math or science.

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File URL: http://economics.uwo.ca/cibc/workingpapers_docs/wp2011/Stinebrickner_Stinebrickner01.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity in its series University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers with number 20111.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:uwo:hcuwoc:20111

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Postal: CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity, Social Science Centre, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2
Phone: 519-661-2111 Ext.85244
Web page: http://economics.uwo.ca/research/research_papers/cibc_workingpapers.html

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Keywords: Education; College; Math/Science; Learning; Expectations Data;

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References

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  1. Peter Arcidiacono & V. Joseph Hotz & Songman Kang, 2010. "Modeling College Major Choices using Elicited Measures of Expectations and Counterfactuals," NBER Working Papers 15729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Montmarquette, C. & Cannings, C. & Mahseredjian,S., 1997. "How do Young People Choose College Majors?," Cahiers de recherche 9719, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  3. Todd R. Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2009. "Learning about Academic Ability and the College Drop-out Decision," NBER Working Papers 14810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2002. "Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major," Working Papers 02-26, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  5. Basit Zafar, 2009. "How do college students form expectations?," Staff Reports 378, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  6. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 1996. "Eliciting Student Expectations of the Returns to Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 1-26.
  7. Todd Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2001. "Time Use and College Outcomes," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20012, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  8. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 2004. "How Should We Measure Consumer Confidence?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 51-66, Spring.
  9. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Navarro, Salvador, 2004. "Separating Uncertainty from Heterogeneity in Life Cycle Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 1437, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 2003. "How Should We Measure Consumer Confidence (Sentiment)? Evidence from the Michigan Survey of Consumers," NBER Working Papers 9926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Todd R. Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2007. "The Effect of Credit Constraints on the College Drop-Out Decision: A Direct Approach Using a New Panel Study," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20071, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  12. J. Dominitz & C. F. Manski, . "Using expectations data to study subjective income expectations," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1050-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  13. Jeff Dominitz, 1998. "Earnings Expectations, Revisions, And Realizations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 374-388, August.
  14. Blass, Asher & Lach, Saul & Manski, Charles, 2008. "Using Elicited Choice Probabilities to Estimate Random Utility Models: Preferences for Electricity Reliability," CEPR Discussion Papers 7030, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Carneiro, Pedro & Hansen, Karsten & Heckman, James, 2003. "Estimating distributions of treatment effects with an application to the returns to schooling and measurement of the effects of uncertainty on college choice," Working Paper Series 2003:9, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  16. F. Thomas Juster, 1966. "Consumer Buying Intentions and Purchase Probability: An Experiment in Survey Design," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number just66-2, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2013. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," NBER Working Papers 18799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Stenberg, Anders, 2013. "Does Expert Advice Improve Educational Choice?," IZA Discussion Papers 7649, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Saniter, Nils & Siedler, Thomas, 2014. "The Effects of Occupational Knowledge: Job Information Centers, Educational Choices, and Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 8100, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Garant, Jean-Philippe & Herman, Hannah & Hunt, Jennifer & Munroe, David, 2012. "Why Don't Women Patent?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9185, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Hunt, Jennifer, 2012. "Why Do Women Leave Science and Engineering?," IZA Discussion Papers 6885, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2013. "State Merit-Aid Programs and College Major: A Focus on Stem," Economics Working Paper Series 1406, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
  7. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Belief updating among college students: evidence from experimental variation in information," Staff Reports 516, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  8. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Determinants of college major choice: identification using an information experiment," Staff Reports 500, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  9. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2013. "University differences in the graduation of minorities in STEM fields: evidence from California," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51564, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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