Discussion

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THE MAJOR DECISION 41

0 50 100 150

Year of Specialization: lower ability quartiles

0 50 100 150

Year of Specialization: upper ability quartiles

1 2 3 4 -

Year

1 2 3 4 -

Year

Science_Math

Business_Economics

Engineering

Science_Math

Business_Economics

Engineering

Lower ability

Upper ability

Figure 9: Timing of specialization: lower and upper SAT/ACT quartiles

ability bracket. Note that we do not report parameter estimates for the lower

ability sample: while our entire sample contains roughly equal shares of students

in each major (slanted towards science, the largest category), the subsample of

lower-ability graduates is heavily dominated by Business & Economics majors.

The high-ability subsample estimates are very similar to the full sample with

respect to learning; transferability of education and the matching premium are

both a little lower.

Table 11. Restricted sample: students from upper SAT/ACT quartiles

Parameter Definition Baseline Upper Qts

ρ Precision of learning 0.39 0.41

ρ 0 High school signal 0.49 0.49

β Transferability 0.90 0.70

P Matching premium 0.20 0.17

R f (ǫ f ) Return function 0.235 0.235

C λ Expected switching penalty 1.59 3.3

6.1.4. Gender. Does the learning value or transferability of education depend on

gender? There is considerable evidence that major choice itself varies across

genders. 41 Furthermore, gender-correlated differences in expected labor market

attachment could influence the importance of specialized skills vs. information

about ones comparative advantage. Bronson (2014) highlights differential penalties

in labor supply reductions as one reason women avoid high-paying majors. 42

41 See Montmarquette et al. (2002), Kirkeboen (2012), Holzer and Dunlop (2013), Turner and

Bowen (1999), Dickson (2010)

42 Walker and Zhu (2011) also find that returns to majors vary across genders.

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