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College major choice and ability: Why is general ability not enough?

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  • Bartolj, Tjaša
  • Polanec, Sašo

Abstract

In this paper we study the impact of cognitive ability on college major choices using an administrative data set for full-time students enrolled in four-year business and economics programs offered by the largest Slovenian university. In contrast to existing studies, we are able to distinguish between general ability, measured with high school GPA, and major-specific ability, measured with grades achieved in major-specific courses. We show that students with higher general ability are more likely to enroll in Economics majors, while higher major specific ability (e.g. higher grade in Accounting) increases the likelihood of choosing that major (Accounting). We also find that both genders are more responsive to measured major-specific ability in majors that are traditionally more popular among them (e.g. Business Informatics for males). These results suggest that policy makers aiming to change the structure of the labor supply should attempt to change the major-specific abilities of students.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartolj, Tjaša & Polanec, Sašo, 2012. "College major choice and ability: Why is general ability not enough?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 996-1016.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:6:p:996-1016
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.07.010
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    1. repec:spr:empeco:v:52:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00181-016-1121-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Benoît Rapoport & Claire Thibout, 2016. "Why Do Boys and Girls Make Different Educational Choices? The Influence of Expected Earnings and Test Scores," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2016n01, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Educational economics; Human capital; Salary wage differentials; School choice;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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