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Do completed college majors respond to changes in wages?

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  • Long, Mark C.
  • Goldhaber, Dan
  • Huntington-Klein, Nick

Abstract

In an analysis connecting labor market earnings to college major choices, we find statistically significant relationships between changes in wages by occupation and subsequent changes in college majors completed in related fields of college study between 1982 and 2012. College majors (defined at a detailed level) are most strongly related to wages observed three years earlier, when students were college freshmen. The responses to wages vary depending on the extent to which there is a strong mapping of majors into particular occupations. We also find that women, blacks, Hispanics, and students with low test scores are less likely to respond to wage changes. These findings have implications for policy interventions designed to align students’ major choices with labor market demand.

Suggested Citation

  • Long, Mark C. & Goldhaber, Dan & Huntington-Klein, Nick, 2015. "Do completed college majors respond to changes in wages?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1-14.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:49:y:2015:i:c:p:1-14
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2015.07.007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Di Paolo, Antonio & Tansel, Aysit, 2017. "Analyzing Wage Differentials by Fields of Study: Evidence from Turkey," GLO Discussion Paper Series 91, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. John V. Winters, 2017. "Do earnings by college major affect graduate migration?," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 59(3), pages 629-649, November.
    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. Michael R. Ransom & Aaron Phipps, 2017. "The Changing Occupational Distribution by College Major," Research in Labor Economics,in: Skill Mismatch in Labor Markets, volume 45, pages 129-171 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    5. Liu, Shimeng & Sun, Weizeng & Winters, John V., 2017. "Up in STEM, Down in Business: Changing College Major Decisions with the Great Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 10996, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Ransom, Tyler & Winters, John V., 2016. "Do Foreigners Crowd Natives out of STEM Degrees and Occupations? Evidence from the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990," IZA Discussion Papers 9920, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Joseph G. Altonji & Peter Arcidiacono & Arnaud Maurel, 2015. "The Analysis of Field Choice in College and Graduate School: Determinants and Wage Effects," NBER Working Papers 21655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    College majors; Occupations; Labor market wages;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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