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The Effects of Race, Sex, and Expected Returns on the Choice of College Major


  • J. Farley Ordovensky Staniec

    () (Economics Department, University of the Pacific)


This paper examines whether race and sex play significant roles in the choice of college major for entering freshmen. Of particular interest is whether women and minority students are more or less likely, holding other things constant, to choose to major in science, engineering, or math (SEM). Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study: 1988-94 (NELS:88), results indicate that, even controlling for individual, family, and school characteristics, females are less likely, and Asians and Blacks are more likely, to choose SEM majors. However, including expected returns in the estimation eliminates the significance of being female and Asian (but not Black) on SEM major choice.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Farley Ordovensky Staniec, 2004. "The Effects of Race, Sex, and Expected Returns on the Choice of College Major," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 30(4), pages 549-562, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:eej:eeconj:v:30:y:2004:i:4:p:549-562

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blakemore, Arthur E & Low, Stuart A, 1984. "Sex Differences in Occupational Selection: The Case of College Majors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 157-163, February.
    2. Andrew M. Gill & Duane E. Leigh, 2000. "Community College Enrollment, College Major, and the Gender Wage Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(1), pages 163-181, October.
    3. Ganderton, Philip T. & Santos, Richard, 1995. "Hispanic college attendance and completion: Evidence from the high school and beyond surveys," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 35-46, March.
    4. Julian R. Betts, 1996. "What Do Students Know about Wages? Evidence from a Survey of Undergraduates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 27-56.
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    More about this item


    Female; Race; Women;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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