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Sociocultural background and choice of STEM majors at university


  • 2020
Published in:
  • Oxford Economic Papers. - 2020, vol. 72, no. 2, p. 347-369
English This article proposes a generalized Roy model to examine the role of students’ sociocultural background for choosing a STEM major at university. We combine survey data on Swiss university graduates with rich municipality level information. We use a principal component analysis to construct an indicator capturing progressive attitudes in a student’s home environment. Our structural approach allows directly comparing the importance of sociocultural background with that of pecuniary returns and costs in the choice of college major. Identification exploits individual differences in the relative cost of studying STEM that are unrelated to the local economic environment. Male students from conservative backgrounds are more likely to study STEM, whereas women are unaffected by sociocultural background besides majority language. The effect of the progressivism indicator for males is about half of the effect of the earnings return to STEM and twice as large as the effect of the relative monetary cost.
Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales et du management
Département d'économie politique
  • English
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