IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/ecoedu/v73y2019ics0272775719303784.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

College major, college coursework, and post-college wages

Author

Listed:
  • Light, Audrey
  • Schreiner, Sydney

Abstract

We ask whether estimated wage payoffs to college majors change when we account for skills acquired in college by including college major dummies and detailed coursework measures in log-wage models. Using data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we find that students in all majors differ considerably in the percentage of credits taken within-major, as well as in their overall credit distributions. When credit distributions are taken into account in modeling log-wages, estimated coefficients for college majors often fall by 50% or more. Moreover, estimated log-wage gaps between select pairs of majors often change by orders of magnitude depending on whether we compare individuals whose overall credit distributions correspond to obtaining a low, medium, or high level of credit concentration within the major.

Suggested Citation

  • Light, Audrey & Schreiner, Sydney, 2019. "College major, college coursework, and post-college wages," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:73:y:2019:i:c:s0272775719303784
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2019.101935
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775719303784
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1016/j.econedurev.2019.101935?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Lisa B. Kahn & Jamin D. Speer, 2014. "Trends in Earnings Differentials across College Majors and the Changing Task Composition of Jobs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 387-393, May.
    2. Lars J. Kirkeboen & Edwin Leuven & Magne Mogstad, 2016. "Editor's Choice Field of Study, Earnings, and Self-Selection," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(3), pages 1057-1111.
    3. Eric Bettinger, 2010. "To Be or Not to Be: Major Choices in Budding Scientists," NBER Chapters, in: American Universities in a Global Market, pages 69-98, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Brown, Charles & Corcoran, Mary, 1997. "Sex-Based Differences in School Content and the Male-Female Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 431-465, July.
    5. Joseph G. Altonji & Erica Blom & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 185-223, July.
    6. Webber, Douglas A., 2014. "The lifetime earnings premia of different majors: Correcting for selection based on cognitive, noncognitive, and unobserved factors," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 14-23.
    7. Speer, Jamin D., 2017. "The gender gap in college major: Revisiting the role of pre-college factors," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 69-88.
    8. Magali Beffy & Denis Fougère & Arnaud Maurel, 2012. "Choosing the Field of Study in Postsecondary Education: Do Expected Earnings Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 334-347, February.
    9. Georgeanne M. Artz & Kevin L. Kimle & Peter F. Orazem, 2014. "Does the Jack of All Trades Hold the Winning Hand? Comparing the Role of Specialized versus General Skills in the Returns to an Agricultural Degree," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(1), pages 193-212.
    10. Josh Kinsler & Ronni Pavan, 2015. "The Specificity of General Human Capital: Evidence from College Major Choice," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 933-972.
    11. Dan A. Black & Amelia M. Haviland & Seth G. Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2008. "Gender Wage Disparities among the Highly Educated," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 630-659.
    12. Guy Tchuente, 2016. "High School Human Capital Portfolio and College Outcomes," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(3), pages 267-302.
    13. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    14. Lois Joy, 2003. "Salaries of Recent Male and Female College Graduates: Educational and Labor Market Effects," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(4), pages 606-621, July.
    15. Astorne-Figari, Carmen & Speer, Jamin D., 2019. "Are changes of major major changes? The roles of grades, gender, and preferences in college major switching," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 75-93.
    16. Chevalier, Arnaud, 2011. "Subject choice and earnings of UK graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1187-1201.
    17. Light, Audrey, 2001. "In-School Work Experience and the Returns to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 65-93, January.
    18. Jeff Grogger & Eric Eide, 1995. "Changes in College Skills and the Rise in the College Wage Premium," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 280-310.
    19. Thomas Lemieux, 2014. "Occupations, fields of study and returns to education," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1047-1077, November.
    20. James, Estelle, et al, 1989. "College Quality and Future Earnings: Where Should You Send Your Child to College?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 247-252, May.
    21. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Donald, Stephen G., 2008. "The effect of college curriculum on earnings: An affinity identifier for non-ignorable non-response bias," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 479-491, June.
    22. Pedros Silos & Eric Smith, 2015. "Human Capital Portfolios," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 635-652, July.
    23. Rumberger, Russell W. & Thomas, Scott L., 1993. "The economic returns to college major, quality and performance: A multilevel analysis of recent graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, March.
    24. Leighton, Margaret & Speer, Jamin D., 2020. "Labor market returns to college major specificity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    25. Robst, John, 2007. "Education and job match: The relatedness of college major and work," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 397-407, August.
    26. Dolton, P. J. & Vignoles, A., 2002. "Is a broader curriculum better?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 415-429, October.
    27. Hall, Caroline, 2016. "Does more general education reduce the risk of future unemployment? Evidence from an expansion of vocational upper secondary education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 251-271.
    28. Mark C. Berger, 1988. "Predicted Future Earnings and Choice of College Major," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(3), pages 418-429, April.
    29. Webber, Douglas A., 2016. "Are college costs worth it? How ability, major, and debt affect the returns to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 296-310.
    30. Griffith, Amanda L., 2010. "Persistence of women and minorities in STEM field majors: Is it the school that matters?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 911-922, December.
    31. Pedros Silos & Eric Smith, 2015. "Human Capital Portfolios," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 635-652, July.
    32. Rask, Kevin & Tiefenthaler, Jill, 2008. "The role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 676-687, December.
    33. John Robst, 2007. "Education, College Major, and Job Match: Gender Differences in Reasons for Mismatch," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2), pages 159-175.
    34. Thomas N. Daymonti & Paul J. Andrisani, 1984. "Job Preferences, College Major, and the Gender Gap in Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(3), pages 408-428.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Arpita Patnaik & Matthew J. Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2020. "College Majors," NBER Working Papers 27645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Di Paolo, Antonio & Tansel, Aysit, 2017. "Analyzing Wage Differentials by Fields of Study: Evidence from Turkey," MPRA Paper 80299, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Leighton, Margaret & Speer, Jamin D., 2020. "Labor market returns to college major specificity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    4. 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).
    5. Jiang, Xuan, 2021. "Women in STEM: Ability, preference, and value," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    6. Berlingieri, Francesco & Zierahn, Ulrich, 2014. "Field of study, qualification mismatch, and wages: Does sorting matter?," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-076, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    7. Rodney J. Andrews & Scott A. Imberman & Michael F. Lovenheim, 2017. "Risky Business? The Effect of Majoring in Business on Earnings and Educational Attainment," NBER Working Papers 23575, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fricke, Hans & Grogger, Jeffrey & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2018. "Exposure to academic fields and college major choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 199-213.
    9. David J Deming & Kadeem Noray, 2020. "Earnings Dynamics, Changing Job Skills, and STEM Careers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 135(4), pages 1965-2005.
    10. Luc Bridet & Margaret Leighton, 2015. "The Major Decision: Labor Market Implications of the Timing of Specialization in College," Discussion Paper Series, School of Economics and Finance 201510, School of Economics and Finance, University of St Andrews.
    11. Jain, Tarun & Mukhopadhyay, Abhiroop & Prakash, Nishith & Rakesh, Raghav, 2018. "Labor Market Effects of High School Science Majors in a High STEM Economy," IZA Discussion Papers 11908, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. John Eric Humphries & Juanna Joensen & Gregory Veramendi, 2017. "College Major Choice: Sorting and Differential Returns to Skills," 2017 Meeting Papers 1623, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. Kelly, Elish & O'Connell, Philip J. & Smyth, Emer, 2010. "The economic returns to field of study and competencies among higher education graduates in Ireland," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 650-657, August.
    15. Webber, Douglas A., 2016. "Are college costs worth it? How ability, major, and debt affect the returns to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 296-310.
    16. Aina, Carmen & Casalone, Giorgia, 2020. "Early labor market outcomes of university graduates: Does time to degree matter?," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    17. Seah, Kelvin K.C. & Pan, Jessica & Tan, Poh Lin, 2020. "Breadth of university curriculum and labor market outcomes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    18. David McClough & Mary Ellen Benedict, 2017. "Not All Education Is Created Equal: How Choice of Academic Major Affects the Racial Salary Gap," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 62(2), pages 184-205, October.
    19. Fernando Saltiel, 2019. "What's Math Got to Do With It? Multidimensional Ability and the Gender Gap in STEM," 2019 Meeting Papers 1201, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    20. Kang, Lili & Peng, Fei & Zhu, Yu, 2018. "Returns to higher education subjects and tiers in China - Evidence from the China Family Panel Studies," GLO Discussion Paper Series 238, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    College major; College coursework; Earnings;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:73:y:2019:i:c:s0272775719303784. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.