IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/uwp/jhriss/v48y2013iii1p545-595.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

College Major Choice and the Gender Gap

Author

Listed:
  • Basit Zafar

Abstract

This paper studies how college majors are chosen, focusing on the underlying gender gap. I collect a data set of Northwestern University sophomores that contains their subjective expectations about choice-specific c outcomes, and estimate a model where majors are chosen under uncertainty. Enjoying coursework and gaining parents’ approval are the most important determinants in the choice for both genders. However, males and females differ in their preferences in the workplace, with males caring about the pecuniary outcomes in the workplace much more than females. The gender gap is mainly due to gender differences in preferences and tastes, and not because females are underconfident about their academic ability or fear monetary discrimination. The findings in this paper make a case for policies that change attitudes toward gender roles.

Suggested Citation

  • Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:48:y:2013:iii:1:p:545-595
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://jhr.uwpress.org/cgi/reprint/48/3/545
    Download Restriction: A subscripton is required to access pdf files. Pay per article is available.
    ---><---

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

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. F. Thomas Juster, 1964. "Anticipations and Purchases: An Analysis of Consumer Behavior," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number just64-1, January-J.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
    3. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144.
    4. Marianne Bertrand & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2010. "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 228-255, July.
    5. 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.
    6. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
    7. Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2012. "On the Use of Expectations Data in Estimating Structural Dynamic Choice Models," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(3), pages 521-554.
    8. David Revelt & Kenneth Train, 1998. "Mixed Logit With Repeated Choices: Households' Choices Of Appliance Efficiency Level," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 647-657, November.
    9. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Preferences and prices in choice of career: The switch to business, 1972-1987," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 1-34, June.
    10. Rob Euwals & Bertrand Melenberg & Arthur van Soest, 1998. "Testing the predictive value of subjective labour supply data," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 567-585.
    11. Adeline Delavande, 2008. "Pill, Patch, Or Shot? Subjective Expectations And Birth Control Choice," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 999-1042, August.
    12. 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.
    13. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification using an Information Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 791-824.
    14. van der Klaauw, Wilbert & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 2008. "Social security and the retirement and savings behavior of low-income households," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 145(1-2), pages 21-42, July.
    15. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu Man Chan & Sofia Cheidvasser & John Rust, 2004. "How large is the bias in self-reported disability?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 649-670.
    16. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith & Julie M. Zissimopoulos, 2004. "The effects of subjective survival on retirement and Social Security claiming," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 761-775.
    17. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Adolescent Econometricians: How Do Youth Infer the Returns to Schooling?," NBER Chapters, in: Studies of Supply and Demand in Higher Education, pages 43-60, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Richard Breen & Cecilia Garcia-Penalosa, 2002. "Bayesian Learning and Gender Segregation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 899-922, October.
    19. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    20. 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.
    21. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    22. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
    23. Altonji, Joseph G, 1993. "The Demand for and Return to Education When Education Outcomes Are Uncertain," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 48-83, January.
    24. Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
    25. Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-373, June.
    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. Basit Zafar, 2012. "Double Majors: One For Me, One For The Parents?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(2), pages 287-308, April.
    3. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification using an Information Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 791-824.
    4. Todd Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2012. "Learning about Academic Ability and the College Dropout Decision," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(4), pages 707-748.
    5. Basit Zafar, 2011. "How Do College Students Form Expectations?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 301-348.
    6. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
    7. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2016. "Human Capital Investments and Expectations about Career and Family," NBER Working Papers 22543, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ernesto Reuben & Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2017. "Preferences and Biases in Educational Choices and Labour Market Expectations: Shrinking the Black Box of Gender," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(604), pages 2153-2186, September.
    9. 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.
    10. Delavande, Adeline & Zafar, Basit, 2014. "University choice: the role of expected earnings, non-pecuniary outcomes and financial constraints," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-38, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    11. 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.
    12. Blom, Erica & Cadena, Brian C. & Keys, Benjamin J., 2015. "Investment over the Business Cycle: Insights from College Major Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 9167, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Pamela Giustinelli, 2016. "Group Decision Making With Uncertain Outcomes: Unpacking Child–Parent Choice Of The High School Track," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 57(2), pages 573-602, May.
    14. Gizem Koşar & Cormac O'Dea, 2022. "Expectations Data in Structural Microeconomic Models," NBER Working Papers 30094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Charles F. Manski, 2018. "Survey Measurement of Probabilistic Macroeconomic Expectations: Progress and Promise," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 411-471.
    16. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner, 2014. "Academic Performance and College Dropout: Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Estimate a Learning Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 601-644.
    17. Jacopo Mazza & Hans van Ophem, 2020. "Educational Choice, Initial Wage and Wage Growth," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-030/III, Tinbergen Institute.
    18. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Belief updating among college students: evidence from experimental variation in information," Staff Reports 516, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    19. Insler, Michael & Rahman, Ahmed S. & Smith, Katherine, 2021. "Tracking the Herd with a Shotgun — Why Do Peers Influence College Major Selection?," IZA Discussion Papers 14412, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    20. Li, Hsueh-Hsiang, 2018. "Do mentoring, information, and nudge reduce the gender gap in economics majors?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 165-183.

    More about this item

    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:uwp:jhriss:v:48:y:2013:iii:1:p:545-595. 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://jhr.uwpress.org/ .

    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: (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://jhr.uwpress.org/ .

    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.