The central aim of this project is to estimate the causal effect of students’ college major choices on their postsecondary and labor market outcomes. The combination of a research design that can identify causal effects of major choice with rich administrative data that allow us to track students from high school through college and into the labor market is novel in the higher education literature and will provide new and important evidence on how college major choices affect students during college and beyond.
This project will be the first to identify a causal relationship between a student choosing certain majors and a broad set of education and labor market outcomes using quasi-experimental variation with US data. The analysis will be supplemented with an additional strategy that uses differences in tuition rates by major field that arose due to a tuition deregulation law in Texas. These changes in tuition led many students to avoid higher-priced fields, and thus they can be used to generate changes in student major choices that are unrelated to the underlying academic strengths and preferences of the students.
Finally, using links to high school records that contain detailed student demographic information, the research team will further investigate moderators that may affect the direction or strength of the impact of entering certain majors relative to others on student academic and labor market outcomes. These potential moderators include race/ethnicity, gender, economic status of the student, high school academic performance, and the “quality” of the student’s high school (as measured by average student test scores in the school on state exams).