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The Effect of Labor Market Information on Community College Students’ Major Choice

Listed author(s):
  • Rachel Baker
  • Eric Bettinger
  • Brian Jacob
  • Ioana Marinescu

An important goal of community colleges is to prepare students for the labor market. But are students aware of the labor market outcomes in different majors? And how much do students weigh labor market outcomes when choosing a major? In this study we find that less than 40% of a sample of community college students in California rank broad categories of majors accurately in terms of labor market outcomes. However, students believe that salaries are 13 percent higher than they actually are, on average, and students underestimate the probability of being employed by almost 25 percent. We find that the main determinants of major choice are beliefs about course enjoyment and grades, but expected labor market outcomes also matter. Experimental estimates of the impact of expected labor market outcomes are larger than OLS estimates and show that a 1% increase in salary is associated with a 1.4 to 1.8% increase in the probability of choosing a specific category of majors.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23333.

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Date of creation: Apr 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23333
Note: CH ED LS PE
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 1-9.
  2. James E. Rosenbaum & Janet Rosenbaum, 2013. "Beyond BA Blinders: Lessons from Occupational Colleges and Certificate Programs for Nontraditional Students," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 153-172, Spring.
  3. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
  4. Ann Huff Stevens & Michal Kurlaender & Michel Grosz, 2015. "Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from California Community Colleges," NBER Working Papers 21137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christopher Jepsen & Kenneth Troske & Paul Coomes, 2014. "The Labor-Market Returns to Community College Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 95-121.
  6. Jacobson, Louis & LaLonde, Robert & G. Sullivan, Daniel, 2005. "Estimating the returns to community college schooling for displaced workers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 271-304.
  7. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner, 2014. "Academic Performance and College Dropout: Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Estimate a Learning Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 601-644.
  8. Magali Beffy & Denis Fougère & Arnaud Maurel, 2012. "Choosing the Field of Study in Postsecondary Education: Do Expected Earnings Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 334-347, February.
  9. Basit Zafar, 2011. "How Do College Students Form Expectations?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 301-348.
  10. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification using an Information Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 791-824.
  11. Asher A. Blass & Saul Lach & Charles F. Manski, 2010. "Using Elicited Choice Probabilities To Estimate Random Utility Models: Preferences For Electricity Reliability," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(2), pages 421-440, May.
  12. Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
  13. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "How Do College Students Respond to Public Information about Earnings?," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 117-169.
  14. Julian R. Betts, 1996. "What Do Students Know about Wages? Evidence from a Survey of Undergraduates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 27-56.
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