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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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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. 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.
  2. Todd Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2012. "Learning about Academic Ability and the College Dropout Decision," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(4), pages 707 - 748.
  3. 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.
  4. 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," NBER Working Papers 13340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Basit Zafar, 2011. "How Do College Students Form Expectations?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 301 - 348.
  6. 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.
  7. Stinebrickner, Ralph & Stinebrickner, T.R.Todd R., 2004. "Time-use and college outcomes," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 243-269.
  8. 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.
  9. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
  10. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2002. "Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major," Working Papers 02-26, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  11. Jeff Dominitz, 1998. "Earnings Expectations, Revisions, And Realizations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 374-388, August.
  12. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 1994. "Eliciting Student Expectations of the Returns to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 4936, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. V. Joseph Hotz & Peter Arcidiacono & Songman Kang, 2010. "Modeling College Major Choices Using Elicited Measures of Expectations and Counterfactuals," Working Papers 10-30, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  14. 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, July.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Arcidiacono, Peter & Aucejo, Esteban & Hotz, V. Joseph, 2013. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," IZA Discussion Papers 7227, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. Jennifer Hunt, 2010. "Why Do Women Leave Science And Engineering?," Departmental Working Papers 2010-03, McGill University, Department of Economics.
  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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