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Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major

  • Arcidiacono, Peter

Large earnings and ability differences exist across majors. This paper seeks to estimate the monetary returns to particular majors as well as find the causes of the ability sorting across majors. In order to accomplish this, I estimate a dynamic model of college and major choice. Even after controlling for selection, large earnings premiums exist for certain majors. Differences in monetary returns explain little of the ability sorting across majors; virtually all ability sorting is because of preferences for particular majors in college and the workplace, with the former being larger than the latter.

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Paper provided by Duke University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 02-26.

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Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:duk:dukeec:02-26
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  1. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
  2. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts," NBER Working Papers 6385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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 247-52, May.
  4. Linda Datcher Loury, 1997. "The Gender Earnings Gap among College-Educated Workers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(4), pages 580-593, July.
  5. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1999. "Why Youths Drop Out of High School: The Impact of Preferences, Opportunities, and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1295-1340, November.
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  8. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1994. "The Solution and Estimation of Discrete Choice Dynamic Programming Models by Simulation and Interpolation: Monte Carlo Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(4), pages 648-72, November.
  9. Arcidiacono, Peter & Jones, John B., 2000. "Finite Mixture Distribution, Sequential Likelihood, and the EM Algorithm," Working Papers 00-16, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  10. James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1998. "Instrumental Variables Methods for the Correlated Random Coefficient Model: Estimating the Average Rate of Return to Schooling When the Return is Correlated with Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 974-987.
  11. Winship C. Fuller & Charles F. Manski & David A. Wise, 1982. "New Evidence on the Economic Determinants of Postsecondary Schooling Choices," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(4), pages 477-498.
  12. John Rust & Geoffrey Rothwell, 1995. "On the Optimal Lifetime of Nuclear Power Plants," Industrial Organization 9512002, EconWPA, revised 15 Dec 1995.
  13. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  14. 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.
  15. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Public Economics 9406005, EconWPA, revised 06 Jul 1994.
  16. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  17. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1989. "The Specification and Estimation of Dynamic Stochastic Discrete Choice Models: A Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(4), pages 562-598.
  18. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1995. "The career decisions of young men," Working Papers 559, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  19. 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.
  20. Loury, Linda Datcher & Garman, David, 1995. "College Selectivity and Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 289-308, April.
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