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Attribution Bias in Major Decisions: Evidence from the United States Military Academy

Author

Listed:
  • Kareem Haggag
  • Richard W. Patterson
  • Nolan G. Pope
  • Aaron Feudo

Abstract

Using administrative data, we study the role of attribution bias in a high-stakes, consequential decision: the choice of a college major. Specifically, we examine the influence of fatigue experienced during exposure to a general education course on whether students choose the major corresponding to that course. To do so, we exploit the conditional random assignment of student course schedules at the United States Military Academy. We find that students who are assigned to an early morning (7:30 AM) section of a general education course are roughly 10% less likely to major in that subject, relative to students assigned to a later time slot for the course. We find similar effects for fatigue generated by having one or more back-to-back courses immediately prior to a general education course that starts later in the day. Finally, we demonstrate that the pattern of results is consistent with attribution bias and difficult to reconcile with competing explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Kareem Haggag & Richard W. Patterson & Nolan G. Pope & Aaron Feudo, 2018. "Attribution Bias in Major Decisions: Evidence from the United States Military Academy," CESifo Working Paper Series 7081, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_7081
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    File URL: https://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp7081.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2015. "State Merit Aid Programs and College Major: A Focus on STEM," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 973-1006.
    2. Jeffrey T. Denning & Patrick Turley, 2017. "Was That SMART?: Institutional Financial Incentives and Field of Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(1), pages 152-186.
    3. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:158-170 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd R. Stinebrickner, 2014. "A Major in Science? Initial Beliefs and Final Outcomes for College Major and Dropout," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 426-472.
    5. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 152-157, May.
    6. 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.
    7. Dills, Angela K. & Hernández-Julián, Rey, 2008. "Course scheduling and academic performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 646-654, December.
    8. Edwards, Finley, 2012. "Early to rise? The effect of daily start times on academic performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 970-983.
    9. Scott E. Carrell & Teny Maghakian & James E. West, 2011. "A's from Zzzz's? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Achievement of Adolescents," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 62-81, August.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    attribution bias; college major;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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