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Math or Science? Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Examine the Process of Choosing a College Major

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Abstract

Due primarily to the difficulty of obtaining ideal data, much remains unknown about how college majors are determined. We take advantage of longitudinal expectations data from the Berea Panel Study to provide new evidence about this issue, paying particular attention to the choice of whether to major in math and science. The data collection and analysis are based directly on a simple conceptual model which takes into account that, from a theoretical perspective, a student’s final major is best viewed as the end result of a learning process. We find that students enter college as open to a major in math or science as to any other major group, but that a large number of students move away from math and science after realizing that their grade performance will be substantially lower than expected. Further, changes in beliefs about grade performance arise because students realize that their ability in math/science is lower than expected rather than because students realize that they are not willing to put substantial effort into math or science majors. The findings suggest the potential importance of policies at younger ages which lead students to enter college better prepared to study math or science.

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  • Todd Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2011. "Math or Science? Using Longitudinal Expectations Data to Examine the Process of Choosing a College Major," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20111, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwo:hcuwoc:20111
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    7. Todd Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2012. "Learning about Academic Ability and the College Dropout Decision," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(4), pages 707-748.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jennifer Hunt, 2016. "Why do Women Leave Science and Engineering?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 69(1), pages 199-226, January.
    2. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2015. "State Merit Aid Programs and College Major: A Focus on STEM," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 973-1006.
    3. Shulamit Kahn & Donna Ginther, 2017. "Women and STEM," NBER Working Papers 23525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2016. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(3), pages 525-562, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd R. Stinebrickner, 2014. "A Major in Science? Initial Beliefs and Final Outcomes for College Major and Dropout," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 426-472.
    7. Guy Tchuente, 2016. "High School Human Capital Portfolio and College Outcomes," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(3), pages 267-302.
    8. Hunt, Jennifer & Garant, Jean-Philippe & Herman, Hannah & Munroe, David J., 2012. "Why Don't Women Patent?," IZA Discussion Papers 6886, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Bradley, Elizabeth S., 2012. "The Effect of the Business Cycle on Freshman Major Choice," MPRA Paper 42412, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Bordon, Paola & Fu, Chao, 2015. "College-Major Choice to College-Then-Major Choice," MPRA Paper 79643, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. 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.
    12. Saniter, Nils & Siedler, Thomas, 2014. "The Effects of Occupational Knowledge: Job Information Centers, Educational Choices, and Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 8100, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Belief updating among college students: evidence from experimental variation in information," Staff Reports 516, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    14. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Licklederer, Stefanie, 2016. "Additional Career Assistance and Educational Outcomes for Students in Lower Track Secondary Schools," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145787, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. repec:tpr:edfpol:v:12:y:2017:i:3:p:342-368 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Görlitz, Katja & Gravert, Christina, 2015. "The Effects of a High School Curriculum Reform on University Enrollment and the Choice of College Major," IZA Discussion Papers 8983, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Daniel Kreisman & Kevin Stange, 2017. "Vocational and Career Tech Education in American High Schools: The Value of Depth Over Breadth," NBER Working Papers 23851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Stenberg, Anders, 2013. "Does Expert Advice Improve Educational Choice?," IZA Discussion Papers 7649, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Matsumoto, Brett & Spence, Forrest, 2016. "Price beliefs and experience: Do consumers’ beliefs converge to empirical distributions with repeated purchases?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 243-254.
    20. Peter Arcidiacono & Michael Lovenheim, 2016. "Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 3-51, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Education; College; Math/Science; Learning; Expectations Data;

    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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