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Personality and field of study choice

Listed author(s):
  • Humburg, M.

    (Research Centre for Educ and Labour Mark)

Field of study choice has far-reaching implications for individuals enrolling in university. Field of study choice is strongly linked to the subject matter graduates will specialize in, the kind of work environment they will be working in, and the returns to their skills they can expect once they enter the workforce. This paper uses unique Dutch data which demonstrates that personality measured at age 14 can be linked to field of study choice at around age 19. It can be shown that the Big Five personality traits affect field of study choice. Moreover, while personality matters less than cognitive skills, such as math ability and verbal ability, for educational attainment, the influence of personality on field of study choice is comparable to that of cognitive skills. Sorting across fields of study on the basis of personality traits is in some respects similar for women and men, although substantial differences exist.

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File URL: https://cris.maastrichtuniversity.nl/portal/files/1721890/content
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Paper provided by Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) in its series ROA Research Memorandum with number 001.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2014
Handle: RePEc:unm:umaror:2014001
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  1. Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
  2. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, 05.
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  13. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  14. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  15. Sherwin Rosen, 2002. "Markets and Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 1-15, March.
  16. Randall K. Filer, 1986. "The Role of Personality and Tastes in Determining Occupational Structure," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(3), pages 412-424, April.
  17. Flyer, Fredrick A, 1997. "The Influence of Higher Moments of Earnings Distributions on Career Decisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(4), pages 689-713, October.
  18. Gerrit Mueller & Erik Plug, 2006. "Estimating the Effect of Personality on Male and Female Earnings," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(1), pages 3-22, October.
  19. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of Major: The Changing (Unchanging) Gender Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
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