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Major Choice: Undergraduate Concentrations and the Probability of Graduation


  • Cannings, K.
  • Montmarquette, C.
  • Mahseredjian, S.


We develop a model of the decision-making process in which the perceived probability of success in a major is the central determinant of the choice of a major. Using 1979-1987 data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we employ a two-step procedure that first evaluates, for all the individuals in the sample, the chances of success in all majors. Second, with a multinominal logit model of discrete choice, we explain the individuals choice of a major with his or her estimated probability of success and characteristics. This paper shows that the choice of college concentration depends on the perceived probability of success in a particular concentration. There are, however significant differences across groups and for students who have a high probability of success in all majors. Nous développons un modèle de décision où la probabilité attendue du succès dans un champ d'éducation devient l'élément central du choix de cette filière. Utilisant des données longitudinales américaines de 1979 à 1987, nous employons une procédure à deux étapes pour évaluer dans un premier temps, pour chacun des individus, leurs chances de réussite dans chacune des filières d'éducation considérées. Par la suite, à l'aide d'un modèle logit multinominal de choix discrets, nous expliquons les choix individuels relativement à ces probabilités anticipées de succès, de même que diverses caractéristiques individuelles et socio-économiques des étudiants. L'étude montre que le choix d'une filière d'éducation dépend de la probabilité perçue du succès dans cette filière particulière. Il y a, par ailleurs, des différences significatives selon les groupes sociaux et selon le talent des étudiants.
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Suggested Citation

  • Cannings, K. & Montmarquette, C. & Mahseredjian, S., 1994. "Major Choice: Undergraduate Concentrations and the Probability of Graduation," Cahiers de recherche 9419, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtl:montec:9419

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Takeshi Amemiya, 1975. "Qualitative Response Models," NBER Chapters,in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 4, number 3, pages 363-372 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brown, M C, 1989. "Empirical Determinants of Physician Incomes--Evidence from Canadian Data," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 273-289.
    3. Kollmann, R., 1993. "Fiscal Policy, Technology Shcks and the US Trade Balance Deficit," Cahiers de recherche 9313, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
    4. Dudley, L. & Montmarquette, C., 1993. "Government Size and Economic Convergence," Cahiers de recherche 9316, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
    5. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 365-390, June.
    6. Bernard F. Lentz & David N. Laband, 1989. "Why So Many Children of Doctors Become Doctors: Nepotism vs. Human Capital Transfers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 396-413.
    7. Chiplin, Brian, 1981. "An Alternative Approach to the Measurement of Sex Discrimination: An Illustration from University Entrance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 988-997, December.
    8. Mercenier, J., 1993. "Nonuniqueness of Solutions in Applied General-Equilibrium Models with Scale Economies and Imperfect Competition: A Theoretical Curiosum?," Cahiers de recherche 9301, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
    9. Kollmann, R., 1993. "Fertility, Consumption and Bequests in a Model with Non- Dynastic Perental Altruism," Cahiers de recherche 9337, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
    10. Weiler, William C., 1986. "A sequential logit model of the access effects of higher education institutions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 49-55, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Rochat, Denis & Demeulemeester, Jean-Luc, 2001. "Rational choice under unequal constraints: the example of Belgian higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 15-26, February.
    4. Yves Sprumont, 1998. "On the Game-Theoretic Structure of Public-Good Economies," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 26(4), pages 455-472.
    5. Jocelyn Martel, 1994. "More on the Impact of Bankruptcy Reform in Canada," CIRANO Working Papers 94s-17, CIRANO.
    6. Ghysels, Eric & Granger, Clive W J & Siklos, Pierre L, 1996. "Is Seasonal Adjustment a Linear or Nonlinear Data-Filtering Process?," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 14(3), pages 374-386, July.

    More about this item


    education ; diplomas ; higher education;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education


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