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ERIC Number: ED521980
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 182
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1241-7395-5
The Impact of Labor Market Conditions on Choice of College Major
Lee, Uisok
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University
From the 1960s to the 1990s in the United States, a distinctive feature was observed in variations in the number of Bachelor's degree recipients by field of study. The number in each field demonstrated certain cyclical patterns. Similarly, the U.S. economy experienced fluctuations during a comparable period. Given this 40-year trend, this study aimed to examine the relationship between labor market conditions and choice of college major. Human capital theory suggests that individuals make decisions on educational investment to maximize economic benefits over a lifetime. Based on this theory, one may assume that wages and unemployment rate as key measures for labor market conditions may affect choice of college major in a consistent form: a positive effect of wages and a negative effect of unemployment rate. Prior studies, however, revealed mixed findings. To analyze the impact of either monthly starting salaries associated with the particular major or unemployment rate on five fields of study, this study estimated conditional logit models, using "High School & Beyond (HS&B)" survey data. The HS&B dataset covers the period of the 1980s when the U.S. experienced severe economic fluctuations. The conditional logit model can exploit the effect of major-specific variables and individual-specific attributes on choice simultaneously. This analysis revealed ambiguous results, which were statistically insignificant for most cases. First, the effect of monthly starting salaries on choice of major was negative in terms of absolute or relative values, even after controlling for key variables representing labor market conditions and individual attributes. Contrary to the negative effect of absolute or relative differences in starting salary on choice, the rate of change in starting salary showed a positive impact. Based on these findings, it cannot be determined whether the myopic expectations model of educational choice is correct. Second, the local effect of three types of starting salaries by individual attributes showed mixed results. Third, the effect of the local unemployment rate on choice ranking did not present any consistent patterns as well. Rather, all of the choice patterns varied greatly, depending on how analysis periods and sampling students were categorized. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A