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College Majors and the Knowledge Content of Jobs

Author

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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 for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2941
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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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. 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. repec:eee:jeborg:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:135-150 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Schweri, Juerg & Hartog, Joop, 2014. "Do wage expectations influence the decision to enroll in nursing college?," 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 - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    8. Ransom, Michael R. & Phipps, Aaron, 2016. "The Changing Occupational Distribution by College Major," IZA Discussion Papers 10193, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. John V. Winters & Weineng Xu, 2014. "Geographic Differences in the Earnings of Economics Majors," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, pages 262-276.
    10. Maestri, Virginia, 2013. "Promoting scientific faculties: Does it work? Evidence from Italy," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 168-180.
    11. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14733 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    returns to schooling; college majors; job knowledge content; occupations; O*NET;

    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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