Choice of Major and Continued Class Disadvantage in Higher Education

Julie Siebens, University of California, Davis

Although much postsecondary education research has been dedicated to differences across socioeconomic class and the transition to college, few scholars have considered the relationship between choice of major and social background once students have matriculated. This oversight may be a key reason why less advantaged students are more prone to dropout and tend experience different occupational returns to their education than middle and upper class students. I hypothesize that students from low socioeconomic families tend to select into fields of study that differ from those selected by other students, and that this process is a function of academic achievement and occupational goals. The results suggest that these two factors do influence the attractiveness of majors across socioeconomic backgrounds in ways that disadvantage students from lower class families.

  See paper

Presented in Session 100: Causal Effects of Schooling