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The Effect of Labor Market Information on Community College Students’ Major Choice

65 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2017  

Rachel Baker

University of California, Irvine

Eric Bettinger

Stanford University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Brian A. Jacob

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Ioana Elena Marinescu

University of Chicago

Date Written: April 2017


An important goal of community colleges is to prepare students for the labor market. But are students aware of the labor market outcomes in different majors? And how much do students weigh labor market outcomes when choosing a major? In this study we find that less than 40% of a sample of community college students in California rank broad categories of majors accurately in terms of labor market outcomes. However, students believe that salaries are 13 percent higher than they actually are, on average, and students underestimate the probability of being employed by almost 25 percent. We find that the main determinants of major choice are beliefs about course enjoyment and grades, but expected labor market outcomes also matter. Experimental estimates of the impact of expected labor market outcomes are larger than OLS estimates and show that a 1% increase in salary is associated with a 1.4 to 1.8% increase in the probability of choosing a specific category of majors.

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Suggested Citation

Baker, Rachel and Bettinger, Eric and Jacob, Brian A. and Marinescu, Ioana Elena, The Effect of Labor Market Information on Community College Students’ Major Choice (April 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23333. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2957309

Rachel Baker (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

Eric Bettinger

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Brian Jacob

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Ioana Marinescu

University of Chicago ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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