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Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers

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  • Joseph G. Altonji
  • Erica Blom
  • Costas Meghir

Abstract

Motivated by the large differences in labor market outcomes across college majors, we survey the literature on the demand for and return to high school and post-secondary education by field of study. We combine elements from several papers to provide a dynamic model of education and occupation choice that stresses the roles of specificity of human capital and uncertainty about preferences, ability, education outcomes, and labor market returns. The model implies an important distinction between the ex ante and ex post returns to education decisions. We also discuss some of the econometric difficulties in estimating the causal effects of field of study on wages in the context of a sequential choice model with learning. Finally, we review the empirical literature on choice of curriculum and the effects of high school courses and college major on labor market outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph G. Altonji & Erica Blom & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers," NBER Working Papers 17985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17985
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Zietz, Joachim & Joshi, Prathibha, 2005. "Academic choice behavior of high school students: economic rationale and empirical evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 297-308, June.
    2. Meer, Jonathan, 2007. "Evidence on the returns to secondary vocational education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 559-573, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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