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The role of peers and grades in determining major persistence in the sciences

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  • Ost, Ben

Abstract

Using longitudinal administrative data from a large elite research university, this paper analyzes the role of peers and grades in determining major persistence in the life and physical sciences. In the physical sciences, analyses using within-course, across-time variation show that ex-ante measures of peer quality in a student's introductory courses has a lasting impact on the probability of persisting in the major. This peer effect exhibits important non-linearities such that weak students benefit from exposure to stronger peers while strong students are not dragged down by weaker peers. In both the physical and the life sciences, I find evidence that students are "pulled away" by their high grades in non-science courses and "pushed out" by their low grades in their major field. In the physical sciences, females are found to be more responsive to grades than males, consistent with psychological theories of stereotype vulnerability.

Suggested Citation

  • Ost, Ben, 2010. "The role of peers and grades in determining major persistence in the sciences," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 923-934, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:29:y:2010:i:6:p:923-934
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    Cited by:

    1. Fricke, Hans & Grogger, Jeff & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2015. "Does Exposure to Economics Bring New Majors to the Field? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 9003, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Winters, John V., 2014. "STEM graduates, human capital externalities, and wages in the U.S," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 190-198.
    3. Avery, Christopher & Gurantz, Oded & Hurwitz, Michael & Smith, Jonathan, 2016. "Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores," Working Paper Series rwp16-058, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    4. Oosterbeek, Hessel & van Ewijk, Reyn, 2014. "Gender peer effects in university: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 51-63.
    5. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2015. "State Merit Aid Programs and College Major: A Focus on STEM," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 973-1006.
    6. Ficano, Carlena Cochi, 2012. "Peer effects in college academic outcomes – Gender matters!," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1102-1115.
    7. Valerie Bostwick, 2016. "Signaling In Higher Education: The Effect Of Access To Elite Colleges On Choice Of Major," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(3), pages 1383-1401, July.
    8. Pengfei Jia & Tim Maloney, 2014. "Using Predictive Modelling to Identify Students at Risk of Poor University Outcomes," Working Papers 2014-03, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    9. Danilowicz-Gösele, Kamila, 2016. ""A" is the aim?," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 291, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    10. David Sjoquist & John Winters, 2015. "The effect of Georgia’s HOPE scholarship on college major: a focus on STEM," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-29, December.
    11. Adriana D. Kugler & Catherine H. Tinsley & Olga Ukhaneva, 2017. "Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?," NBER Working Papers 23735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Shulamit Kahn & Donna Ginther, 2017. "Women and STEM," NBER Working Papers 23525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Luc Bridet & Margaret Leighton, 2015. "The Major Decision: Labor Market Implications of the Timing of Specialization in College," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201510, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    14. Hill, Andrew J., 2017. "State affirmative action bans and STEM degree completions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 31-40.
    15. repec:eee:ecolet:v:164:y:2018:i:c:p:82-85 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Berardino Cesi & Dimitri Paolini, 2014. "Peer Group and Distance: When Widening University Participation is Better," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 82, pages 110-132, December.
    17. Mouganie, Pierre & Wang, Yaojing, 2017. "High Performing Peers and Female STEM Choices in School," MPRA Paper 81860, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:62:y:2018:i:c:p:230-253 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Bottia, Martha Cecilia & Stearns, Elizabeth & Mickelson, Roslyn Arlin & Moller, Stephanie & Valentino, Lauren, 2015. "Growing the roots of STEM majors: Female math and science high school faculty and the participation of students in STEM," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 14-27.
    20. repec:eee:labeco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:211-226 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Ehrenberg, Ronald G., 2010. "Analyzing the factors that influence persistence rates in STEM field, majors: Introduction to the symposium," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 888-891, December.
    22. Fischer, Stefanie, 2017. "The downside of good peers: How classroom composition differentially affects men's and women's STEM persistence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 211-226.
    23. Valeeva, Dilyara & Poldin, Oleg & Yudkevich, Maria, 2014. "Student’s social ties and the choice of specialization," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 34(2), pages 80-94.
    24. Kugler, Adriana & Tinsley, Catherine H. & Ukhaneva, Olga, 2017. "Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?," IZA Discussion Papers 10947, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    25. Rodríguez-Planas, Núria & Nollenberger, Natalia, 2018. "Let the girls learn! It is not only about math … it's about gender social norms," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 230-253.

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