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Belief updating among college students: evidence from experimental variation in information

  • Matthew Wiswall
  • Basit Zafar

We investigate how college students form and update their beliefs about future earnings using a unique “information” experiment. We provide college students true information about the population distribution of earnings and observe how this information causes respondents to update their beliefs about their own future earnings. We show that college students are substantially misinformed about population earnings and logically revise their self-beliefs in response to the information we provide, with larger revisions when the information is more specific and is good news. We classify the updating behaviors observed and find that the majority of students are non-Bayesian updaters.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 516.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:516
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  1. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 1994. "Eliciting Student Expectations of the Returns to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 4936, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
  3. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Determinants of college major choice: identification using an information experiment," Staff Reports 500, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. Montmarquette, Claude & Cannings, Kathy & Mahseredjian, Sophie, 2002. "How do young people choose college majors?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 543-556, December.
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  7. Armantier, Olivier & Treich, Nicolas, 2013. "Eliciting beliefs: Proper scoring rules, incentives, stakes and hedging," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 17-40.
  8. Joseph G. Altonji, 1991. "The Demand for and Return to Education When Education Outcomes are Uncertain," NBER Working Papers 3714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Taryn Dinkelman & Claudia Martínez A., 2014. "Investing in Schooling In Chile: The Role of Information about Financial Aid for Higher Education," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(2), pages 244-257, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2002. "Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major," Working Papers 02-26, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  12. Viscusi, W Kip & O'Connor, Charles J, 1984. "Adaptive Responses to Chemical Labeling: Are Workers Bayesian Decision Makers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 942-56, December.
  13. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2009. "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Robert Jensen, 2010. "The (Perceived) Returns to Education and the Demand for Schooling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 515-548, May.
  15. Todd R. Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2011. "Math or Science? Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Examine the Process of Choosing a College Major," NBER Working Papers 16869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Francine D. Blau, 1990. "Career Plans and Expectations of Young Women and Men: The Earnings Gap and Labor Force Participation," NBER Working Papers 3445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
  18. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete too Much?," Discussion Papers 04-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  19. Basit Zafar, 2009. "How do college students form expectations?," Staff Reports 378, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  20. Adeline Delavande, 2005. "Measuring Revisions to Subjective Expectations," 2005 Meeting Papers 682, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  21. Katja Kaufmann, 2008. "Understanding the Income Gradient in College Attendance in Mexico: The Role of Heterogeneity in Expected Returns to College," Discussion Papers 07-040, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
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  25. repec:cdl:ucsbec:1644421 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Viscusi, W Kip, 1997. "Alarmist Decisions with Divergent Risk Information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1657-70, November.
  27. Brian A. Jacob & Tamara Wilder, 2010. "Educational Expectations and Attainment," NBER Working Papers 15683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  29. El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. & Grether, David M., 1995. "Are People Bayesian? Uncovering Behavioral Strategies," Working Papers 919, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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