Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification Using an Information Experiment

60 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2011 Last revised: 30 Jan 2013

See all articles by Matthew Wiswall

Matthew Wiswall

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Basit Zafar

Arizona State University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 20, 2012

Abstract

This paper studies the determinants of college major choice using an experimentally generated panel of beliefs, obtained by providing students with information on the true population distribution of various major-specific characteristics. Students logically revise their beliefs in response to the information, and their subjective beliefs about future major choice are associated with beliefs about their own earnings and ability. We estimate a rich model of college major choice using the belief data. While earnings are a significant determinant of major choice, tastes -- which are heterogeneous -- are the dominant factor in the choice of major. We also investigate gender differences in major choice.

Keywords: college majors, information, uncertainty, risk, subjective expectations, marriage market returns, gender differences

JEL Classification: D81, D84, I21, I23, J10

Suggested Citation

Wiswall, Matthew and Zafar, Basit, Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification Using an Information Experiment (March 20, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1919670 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1919670

Matthew Wiswall (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Economics ( email )

William H. Sewell Social Science Building
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Basit Zafar

Arizona State University ( email )

WP Carey School of Business, ASU
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States
9179326564 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/basitakzafar/

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