The Private and Social Benefits of Double Majors
Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Forthcoming
50 Pages Posted: 21 May 2016
Date Written: March 8, 2016
With increased emphasis on encouraging students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), there is a general concern that society is losing the benefits associated with liberal arts education. One possible approach to achieving the benefits of higher-paying STEM degrees along with the social benefits of liberal arts training is to encourage double majoring among college students. Double majoring is common at about 20 percent of college graduates, yet most double majors are in related areas that provide limited educational diversity. We examine private and social benefits of double majoring using data from the 2010 National Survey of College Graduates. The strongest positive relations associated with combining a liberal arts major with a business or STEM major are on research and development activities and on job match. In addition, we find that students who double major in business and STEM earn a premium over those single majors. However, combining a liberal arts major with STEM or business fields does not increase earnings, indicating little private earnings incentive for students to combine STEM or business majors with liberal arts.
Keywords: College major, double major, liberal arts, returns to education, education externalities, social returns
JEL Classification: I26, J240, H40, H23
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