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Foreign Peer Effects and STEM Major Choice

Listed author(s):
  • Anelli, Massimo

    ()

    (Bocconi University)

  • Shih, Kevin Y.

    ()

    (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

  • Williams, Kevin

    ()

    (University of Utah)

Since the 1980s the United States has faced growing disinterest and high attrition from STEM majors. Over the same period, foreign-born enrollment in U.S. higher education has increased steadily. This paper examines whether foreign-born peers affect the likelihood American college students graduate with a STEM major. Using administrative student records from a large public university in California, we exploit idiosyncratic variation in the share of foreign peers across introductory math courses taught by the same professor over time. Results indicate that a 1 standard deviation increase in foreign peers reduces the likelihood native-born students graduate with STEM majors by 3 percentage points – equivalent to 3.7 native students displaced for 9 additional foreign students in an average course. STEM displacement is offset by an increased likelihood of choosing Social Science majors. However, the earnings prospects of displaced students are minimally affected as they appear to be choosing Social Science majors with equally high earning power. We demonstrate that comparative advantage and linguistic dissonance may operate as underlying mechanisms.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10743.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2017
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10743
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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Lisa B. Kahn & Jamin D. Speer, 2014. "Trends in Earnings Differentials across College Majors and the Changing Task Composition of Jobs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 387-393, May.
  2. Sacerdote, Bruce, 2011. "Peer Effects in Education: How Might They Work, How Big Are They and How Much Do We Know Thus Far?," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  3. George J. Borjas, 2004. "Do Foreign Students Crowd Out Native Students from Graduate Programs?," NBER Working Papers 10349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Scott E. Carrell & Mark Hoekstra & Elira Kuka, 2016. "The Long-Run Effects of Disruptive Peers," NBER Working Papers 22042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Duleep, Harriet & Regets, Mark, 2014. "Should the U.S. Continue Its Family-Friendly Immigration Policy?," IZA Discussion Papers 8406, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-228, January.
  7. Ballatore, Rosario Maria & Fort, Margherita & Ichino, Andrea, 2014. "The Tower of Babel in the Classroom: Immigrants and Natives in Italian Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 8732, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Timothy M. Diette & Ruth Uwaifo Oyelere, 2014. "Gender and Race Heterogeneity: The Impact of Students with Limited English on Native Students' Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 412-417, May.
  9. Massimo Anelli & Giovanni Peri, 2016. "The Effects of High School Peers' Gender on College Major, College Performance and Income," CESifo Working Paper Series 6014, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Kevin Shih, 2016. "Labor Market Openness, H-1b Visa Policy, And The Scale Of International Student Enrollment In The United States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(1), pages 121-138, 01.
  11. Diette, Timothy M. & Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth, 2012. "Do Significant Immigrant Inflows Create Negative Education Impacts? Lessons from the North Carolina Public School System," IZA Discussion Papers 6561, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Ransom, Tyler & Winters, John V., 2016. "Do Foreigners Crowd Natives out of STEM Degrees and Occupations? Evidence from the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990," IZA Discussion Papers 9920, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Bet Caeyers & Marcel Fafchamps, 2016. "Exclusion Bias in the Estimation of Peer Effects," NBER Working Papers 22565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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