College Major Competitiveness and Attrition from the Sciences
34 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2012 Last revised: 3 May 2013
Date Written: April 16, 2013
This paper examines how the competitiveness of distinct college majors at a student’s college affects her major choice and other college outcomes. To mitigate the selection problem, we control for very flexible application-admissions pattern fixed effects to account for student unobservables, as well as school-specific fixed effects to account for typically unobservable institutional characteristics that are plausibly correlated with peer quality and student outcomes. We find that students initially interested in pursuing a science major respond to the competitiveness of both the broad science and non-science major tracks. Weaker, non-minority students typically respond to greater competition in the sciences by shifting their major choice. Under-represented minorities tend to persist in the sciences regardless of competition, but suffer -- often substantially -- in terms of college grades and the likelihood of graduating.
Keywords: College Major Competitiveness, Higher Education, Mismatch, Peer Effects, Science, STEM
JEL Classification: I21, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation