IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp2941.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

College Majors and the Knowledge Content of Jobs

Author

Listed:
  • Freeman, James A.

    (Wheaton College)

  • Hirsch, Barry

    (Georgia State University)

Abstract

College students select their majors for a variety of reasons, including expected returns in the labor market. This paper demonstrates an empirical method that links a census of U.S. degrees and fields of study with measures of the knowledge content of jobs. The study combines individual wage and employment data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) with ratings on 27 knowledge content areas from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), thus providing measures of the economy-wide knowledge content of jobs. Fields of study and the corresponding BA degree data from the Digest of Education Statistics for 1976-77 through 2001-02 are linked to these 27 content areas. We find that the choice of college major is responsive to changes in the knowledge composition of jobs and, more problematically, the wage returns to types of knowledge. Women’s degree responsiveness to knowledge content appears to be stronger than men’s, but their response to wage returns is weak.

Suggested Citation

  • Freeman, James A. & Hirsch, Barry, 2007. "College Majors and the Knowledge Content of Jobs," IZA Discussion Papers 2941, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2941
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://docs.iza.org/dp2941.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Paglin, Morton & Rufolo, Anthony M, 1990. "Heterogeneous Human Capital, Occupational Choice, and Male-Female Earnings Differences," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 123-144, January.
    2. Dan A. Black & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 2003. "The Economic Reward for Studying Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 365-377, July.
    3. Boudarbat, Brahim, 2008. "Field of study choice by community college students in Canada," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 79-93, February.
    4. Blakemore, Arthur E & Low, Stuart A, 1984. "Sex Differences in Occupational Selection: The Case of College Majors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 157-163, February.
    5. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    6. Julian R. Betts & Laurel L. McFarland, 1995. "Safe Port in a Storm: The Impact of Labor Market Conditions on Community College Enrollments," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(4), pages 741-765.
    7. 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.
    8. Finnie, Ross & Frenette, Marc, 2003. "Earning differences by major field of study: evidence from three cohorts of recent Canadian graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 179-192, April.
    9. Katharine G. Abraham & Melissa A. Clark, 2006. "Financial Aid and Students’ College Decisions: Evidence from the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant Program," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
    10. Rumberger, Russell W. & Thomas, Scott L., 1993. "The economic returns to college major, quality and performance: A multilevel analysis of recent graduates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, March.
    11. Robst, John, 2007. "Education and job match: The relatedness of college major and work," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 397-407, August.
    12. Boudarbat, Brahim & Montmarquette, Claude, 2007. "Choice of Fields of Study of Canadian University Graduates: The Role of Gender and their Parents’ Education," IZA Discussion Papers 2552, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Susan Dynarski, 2002. "The Behavioral and Distributional Implications of Aid for College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 279-285, May.
    14. Webbink, Dinand & Hartog, Joop, 2004. "Can students predict starting salaries? Yes!," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 103-113, April.
    15. Solomon William Polachek, 1978. "Sex Differences in College Major," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 31(4), pages 498-508, July.
    16. Thomas N. Daymonti & Paul J. Andrisani, 1984. "Job Preferences, College Major, and the Gender Gap in Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(3), pages 408-428.
    17. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
    18. Julian R. Betts, 1996. "What Do Students Know about Wages? Evidence from a Survey of Undergraduates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 27-56.
    19. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of Major: The Changing (Unchanging) Gender Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    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. Marouani, Mohamed A. & Nilsson, Björn, 2016. "The labor market effects of skill-biased technological change in Malaysia," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 55-75.
    3. Gilpin, Gregory A. & Saunders, Joseph & Stoddard, Christiana, 2015. "Why has for-profit colleges’ share of higher education expanded so rapidly? Estimating the responsiveness to labor market changes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 53-63.
    4. Brian P. An & Wei-Lin Chen, 2015. "The Role of Cognitive and Cultural Sophistication on Diversity Outcomes: Differences Across Fields of Study," Journal of Social Science Studies, Macrothink Institute, vol. 2(1), pages 144-164, January.
    5. Schweri, Juerg & Hartog, Joop, 2017. "Do wage expectations predict college enrollment? Evidence from healthcare," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 135-150.
    6. Schweri, Juerg & Hartog, Joop, 2014. "Do wage expectations influence the decision to enroll in nursing college?," VfS Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100542, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Berlingieri, Francesco & Zierahn, Ulrich, 2014. "Field of study, qualification mismatch, and wages: Does sorting matter?," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-076, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    8. Tang, Rongsheng & Wang, Gaowang, 2021. "Educational mismatch and earnings inequality," MPRA Paper 106953, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Tang, Rongsheng & Wang, Gaowang, 2021. "Educational mismatch and income inequality," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 100(C).
    10. Heather Antecol & Deborah Cobb-Clark, 2010. "Do Non-cognitive Skills Help Explain the Occupational Segregation of Young People?," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2010n13, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    11. Michael R. Ransom & Aaron Phipps, 2017. "The Changing Occupational Distribution by College Major," Research in Labor Economics, in: Solomon W. Polachek & Konstantinos Pouliakas & Giovanni Russo & Konstantinos Tatsiramos (ed.), Skill Mismatch in Labor Markets, volume 45, pages 129-171, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    12. John V. Winters & Weineng Xu, 2014. "Geographic Differences in the Earnings of Economics Majors," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(3), pages 262-276, September.
    13. Maestri, Virginia, 2013. "Promoting scientific faculties: Does it work? Evidence from Italy," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 168-180.
    14. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14733 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Yanqing Ding & Wei Li & Xin Li & Yinduo Wu & Jin Yang & Xiaoyang Ye, 2021. "Heterogeneous Major Preferences for Extrinsic Incentives: The Effects of Wage Information on the Gender Gap in STEM Major Choice," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 62(8), pages 1113-1145, December.
    16. Hilmer, Michael J. & Hilmer, Christiana E., 2012. "On the relationship between student tastes and motivations, higher education decisions, and annual earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 66-75.
    17. Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2013. "Do psychosocial traits help explain gender segregation in young people's occupations?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 59-73.
    18. Yi Lu & Hong Song, 2020. "The effect of educational technology on college students’ labor market performance," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(3), pages 1101-1126, July.
    19. Long, Mark C. & Goldhaber, Dan & Huntington-Klein, Nick, 2015. "Do completed college majors respond to changes in wages?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1-14.
    20. Hyungjo Hur & Kwang Bin Bae, 2021. "Does Discrepancy Between Job Choice Motivation and Satisfaction and Education–Job Mismatch Affect Turnover Intention of Nonprofit Employees?," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 577-593, September.
    21. Han, Luyi & Winters, John V., 2020. "Industry Fluctuations and College Major Choices: Evidence from an Energy Boom and Bust," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    22. Hadavand, Aboozar & Thomas, Sarah M & Almasi, Pooya & Gharehgozli, Orkideh, 2019. "Relevance of Education to Occupation: A New Empirical Approach Based on College Courses," OSF Preprints 8ysgz, Center for Open Science.
    23. Jiang, Shengjun & Guo, Yilan, 2022. "Reasons for college major-job mismatch and labor market outcomes: Evidence from China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Boudarbat, Brahim, 2004. "Earnings and Community College Field of Study Choice in Canada," IZA Discussion Papers 1156, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
    3. Katja Görlitz & Barbara S. Grave, 2012. "Wage Differentials by Field of Study – The Case of German University Graduates," Ruhr Economic Papers 0316, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    4. repec:zbw:rwirep:0316 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Barbara S. Grave & Katja Goerlitz, 2012. "Wage differentials by field of study -- the case of German university graduates," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(3), pages 284-302, March.
    6. J Farley O Staniec, 2017. "Missing Men: Determinants of the Gender Gap in Education Majors," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 43(4), pages 699-714, September.
    7. Bartolj, Tjaša & Polanec, Sašo, 2012. "College major choice and ability: Why is general ability not enough?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 996-1016.
    8. Gunderson, Morley & Krashinsky, Harry, 2009. "Do Education Decisions Respond to Returns by Field of Study?," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-62, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 28 Nov 2009.
    9. Jiang, Xuan, 2021. "Women in STEM: Ability, preference, and value," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    10. Jiang, Xuan, 2018. "Planting the Seeds for Success: Why Women in STEM Do Not Stick in the Field," MPRA Paper 89650, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Aleksander Kucel & Montserrat Vilalta-Bufi, 2012. "Why do university graduates regret their study program? A comparison between Spain and the Netherlands," Working Papers in Economics 279, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.
    12. Garcia, Rene & Bonomo, Marco, 2001. "Tests of conditional asset pricing models in the Brazilian stock market," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 71-90, February.
    13. Blom, Erica & Cadena, Brian C. & Keys, Benjamin J., 2015. "Investment over the Business Cycle: Insights from College Major Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 9167, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Osikominu, Aderonke & Grossmann, Volker & Osterfeld, Marius, 2014. "Are Sociocultural Factors Important for Studying a Science University Major?," VfS Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100404, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. 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.
    16. Boudarbat, Brahim & Montmarquette, Claude, 2007. "Choice of Fields of Study of Canadian University Graduates: The Role of Gender and their Parents’ Education," IZA Discussion Papers 2552, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. O. Poldin & D. Valeeva & M. Yudkevich, 2015. "Choice of specialization: do peers matter?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(44), pages 4728-4740, September.
    18. Lisa Dickson, 2010. "Race and Gender Differences in College Major Choice," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 627(1), pages 108-124, January.
    19. Changhui Kang, 2004. "University Prestige and Choice of Major Field: Evidence from South Korea," Econometric Society 2004 Far Eastern Meetings 544, Econometric Society.
    20. Katja Görlitz & Christina Gravert, 2018. "The effects of a high school curriculum reform on university enrollment and the choice of college major," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(3), pages 321-336, May.
    21. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    returns to schooling; college majors; job knowledge content; occupations; O*NET;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2941. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/izaaade.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Holger Hinte (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/izaaade.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.