Useless Degrees of Useless Statistics? A Comparison of the Net Present Value of Higher Education by Field of Study in Five European Countries
21 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2013
With higher education increasingly available to young people regardless of their socioeconomic status, the question “what to study” is steadily replacing “whether to study” as the key question facing students today. This paper examines, in a comparative and methodologically innovative manner, incentives for studying various fields measured by net present value of university education. We use data from five European countries (France, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia) and include (opportunity) costs in the computation. Results suggest that enrolling in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) faculties is often not the best bargain, especially for female students. Decisions made by students are therefore consistent with their private returns, which points to the fact that if policy-makers desire to induce changes in behaviour, they should consider changing the incentives themselves.
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