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Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers

  • Joseph G. Altonji

    ( Department of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520)

  • Erica Blom

    ( Department of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520)

  • Costas Meghir

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University College London, WC1E 6BT London, United Kingdom)

Motivated by the large differences in labor market outcomes across college majors, we survey the literature on the demand for and return to high school and postsecondary education by field of study. We combine elements from several papers to provide a dynamic model of education and occupation choice that stresses the roles of the specificity of human capital and uncertainty about preferences, ability, education outcomes, and labor market returns. The model implies an important distinction between the ex ante and ex post returns to education decisions. We also discuss some of the econometric difficulties in estimating the causal effects of field of study on wages in the context of a sequential choice model with learning. Finally, we review the empirical literature on the choice of curriculum and the effects of high school courses and college major on labor market outcomes.

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File URL: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-economics-080511-110908
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Article provided by Annual Reviews in its journal Annual Review of Economics.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (07)
Pages: 185-223

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Handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:4:y:2012:p:185-223
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  1. Zietz, Joachim & Joshi, Prathibha, 2005. "Academic choice behavior of high school students: economic rationale and empirical evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 297-308, June.
  2. Meer, Jonathan, 2007. "Evidence on the returns to secondary vocational education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 559-573, October.
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