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Double majors: one for me, one for the parents?

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  • Basit Zafar

Abstract

At least a quarter of college students in the United States graduate with more than one undergraduate major. This paper investigates how students decide on the composition of their paired majors? In other words, whether the majors chosen are substitutes or complements. Since students use both their preferences and their expectations about major-specific outcomes when choosing their majors, I collect innovative data on subjective expectations, drawn from a sample of Northwestern University sophomores. Despite showing substantial heterogeneity in beliefs, the students seem aware of differences across majors and have sensible beliefs about the outcomes. Students believe that their parents are more likely to approve majors associated with high social status and high returns in the labor market. I incorporate the subjective data in a choice model of double majors that also captures the notion of specialization. I find that enjoying the coursework and gaining approval of parents are the most important determinants in the choice of majors. The model estimates reject the hypothesis that students major in one field to pursue their own interests and in another for parents? approval. Instead, I find that gaining parents? approval and enjoying a field of study both academically and professionally are outcomes that students feel are important for both majors. However, I do find that students act strategically in their choice of majors by choosing ones that differ in their chances of completion and difficulty and in finding a job upon graduation.

Suggested Citation

  • Basit Zafar, 2010. "Double majors: one for me, one for the parents?," Staff Reports 478, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:478
    Note: For a published version of this report, see Basit Zafar, "Double Majors: One for Me, One for the Parents?" Economic Inquiry 50, no. 2 (April 2012): 287-308.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xia, Xiaoyu, 2016. "Forming wage expectations through learning: Evidence from college major choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 176-196.
    2. Pamela Giustinelli, 2022. "Expectations in Education: Framework, Elicitation, and Evidence," Working Papers 2022-026, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. repec:dew:wpaper:2014-02 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Carlos Madeira, 2020. "Measuring the perceived value of an MBA degree," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 876, Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Pamela Giustinelli & Charles F. Manski, 2018. "Survey Measures Of Family Decision Processes For Econometric Analysis Of Schooling Decisions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(1), pages 81-99, January.
    6. Joseph G. Altonji & Peter Arcidiacono & Arnaud Maurel, 2015. "The Analysis of Field Choice in College and Graduate School: Determinants and Wage Effects," NBER Working Papers 21655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Boneva, Teodora & Golin, Marta & Rauh, Christopher, 2022. "Can perceived returns explain enrollment gaps in postgraduate education?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    8. Natalie Obergruber, 2018. "Mikroökonometrische Analyse der individuellen und institutionellen Determinanten von Bildung und Berufswahl," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 80.
    9. Nick Huntington‐Klein, 2018. "College Choice As A Collective Decision," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(2), pages 1202-1219, April.
    10. Timothy M. Diette & Manu Raghav, 2014. "A Student’s Dilemma: Is There a Traoff-off Between a Higher Salary or Higher GPA," Working Papers 2014-01, DePauw University, Department of Economics and Management.
    11. Qiong Zhu & Liang Zhang, 2021. "Effects of a Double Major on Post-Baccalaureate Outcomes," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 16(1), pages 146-169, Winter.
    12. Arpita Patnaik & Matthew J. Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2020. "College Majors," NBER Working Papers 27645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Richard J. Paulsen, 2022. "Arts majors and the Great Recession: a cross-sectional analysis of educational choices and employment outcomes," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 46(4), pages 635-658, December.
    14. Wendy A. Stock, 2017. "Trends in Economics and Other Undergraduate Majors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 644-649, May.
    15. Andrew S. Hanks & Kevin M. Kniffin & Xuechao Qian & Bo Wang & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2022. "First Foot Forward: A Two-Step Econometric Method for Parsing and Estimating the Impacts of Multiple Identities," NBER Working Papers 30293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Aydede Yigit, 2020. "Assortative preferences in choice of major," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Sciendo & Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 9(1), pages 1-25, March.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    college majors; preferences; subjective expectations; uncertainty;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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