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College Major Choice and Ability: Why is General Ability not Enough?

  • Tjasa Loga
  • Saso Polanec

The choice of college major is one of the most important decisions students make. In this paper we study the impact of ability on college major choice,using a data set for full-time students enrolled in four-year business and economics programs offered by the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana. We distinguish between general and major-specific ability, which measure different dimensions of cognitive ability. We show that both measures are important in explaining individual decisions and that misleading results can follow from observing only commonly employed general ability. We also find important gender differences as males are more likely to base their major choice on the ability to complete coursework, while females are more likely to decide according to unobserved preferences.

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File URL: http://www.econ.kuleuven.be/licos/publications/dp/dp274.pdf
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Paper provided by LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven in its series LICOS Discussion Papers with number 27411.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:27411
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  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 123-44, January.
  2. Dubin, Jeffrey A., 2007. "Valuing intangible assets with a nested logit market share model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 139(2), pages 285-302, August.
  3. Tjasa Loga & Saso Polanec, 2011. "College Major Choice and Ability: Why is General Ability not Enough?," LICOS Discussion Papers 27411, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  4. MONTMARQUETTE, Claude & CANNINGS, Kathy & MAHSEREDJIAN, Sophie, 1997. "How do Young People Choose College Majors?," Cahiers de recherche 9719, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  5. Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
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  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  10. Charles Brown & Mary Corcoran, 1996. "Sex-Based Differences in School Content and the Male/Female Wage Gap," NBER Working Papers 5580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jack Fiorito & Robert C. Duffenbach, 1982. "Market and nonmarket influences on curriculum choice by college students," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 36(1), pages 88-101, October.
  12. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of major: The changing (unchanging) gender gap," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
  13. D. McFadden & J. Hausman, 1981. "Specification Tests for the Multinominal Logit Model," Working papers 292, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  14. Timothy Richards, 2007. "A nested logit model of strategic promotion," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 63-91, March.
  15. Daniel McFadden & Kenneth Train, 2000. "Mixed MNL models for discrete response," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(5), pages 447-470.
  16. Mark C. Berger, 1988. "Predicted future earnings and choice of college major," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(3), pages 418-429, April.
  17. Rasciute, Simona & Pentecost, Eric J., 2010. "A Nested logit approach to modelling the location of foreign direct investment in the Central and Eastern European Countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 32-39, January.
  18. Fry, Tim R. L. & Harris, Mark N., 1996. "A Monte Carlo study of tests for the independence of irrelevant alternatives property," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 19-30, February.
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