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The Specificity of General Human Capital: Evidence from College Major Choice

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  • Josh Kinsler
  • Ronni Pavan

Abstract

College graduates do not always pursue careers related to their major. Science majors working in jobs unrelated to their field of study earn approximately 30% lower wages than those working in related jobs. We develop a structural model of major choice and labor market outcomes that allows for skill uncertainty and differential accumulation of human capital across major. Our findings confirm that the average return to obtaining a science degree and working in a related job remains close to 30%. We also find that individuals are uncertain about their future productivity at the time of the college major decision.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/681206
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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Lisa B. Kahn & Jamin D. Speer, 2016. "Cashier or Consultant? Entry Labor Market Conditions, Field of Study, and Career Success," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 361-401.
    2. Kirkebøen, Lars & Leuven, Edwin & Mogstad, Magne, 2014. "Field of Study, Earnings, and Self-Selection," Memorandum 29/2014, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    3. 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).
    4. Hill, Andrew J., 2017. "State affirmative action bans and STEM degree completions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 31-40.
    5. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2016. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(3), pages 525-562, March.
    6. 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.
    7. Martin Gervais & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2019. "Life After Debt: Postgraduation Consequences Of Federal Student Loans," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 57(3), pages 1342-1366, July.
    8. Eric Nielsen, 2019. "Test Questions, Economic Outcomes, and Inequality," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2019-013, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
    9. Thomas Breda & Julien Grenet & Marion Monnet & Clémentine van Effenterre, 2018. "Can female role models reduce the gender gap in science? Evidence from classroom interventions in French high schools," PSE Working Papers halshs-01713068, HAL.
    10. Bordon, Paola & Fu, Chao, 2015. "College-Major Choice to College-Then-Major Choice," MPRA Paper 79643, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Tyler Ransom & Esteban Aucejo & Arnaud Maurel & Peter Arcidiacono, 2014. "College Attrition and the Dynamics of Information Revelation," 2014 Meeting Papers 529, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    12. Marta De Philippis, 2016. "STEM Graduates and Secondary School Curriculum: Does Early Exposure to Science Matter?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1443, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    13. Ahmed S. Rahman, 2017. "Rise of the Machines Redux – Education, Technological Transition and Long-run Growth," Departmental Working Papers 61, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.

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