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College Majors and the Knowledge Content of Jobs

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  • 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
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    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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    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. Tang, Rongsheng & Wang, Gaowang, 2021. "Educational mismatch and earnings inequality," MPRA Paper 106953, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Tang, Rongsheng & Wang, Gaowang, 2021. "Educational mismatch and income inequality," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 100(C).
    16. 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.
    17. 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).
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14733 is not listed on IDEAS

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    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

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