Thu, 4 April 2019
Today's guest is Jamin Speer of the University of Memphis. We discuss his paper, "Are Changes of Major Major Changes? The Roles of Grades, Gender, and Preferences in College Major Switching" co-authored with Carmen Astorne-Figari.
The choice of college major is a key stage in the career search, and over a third of college students switch majors at least once. We provide the first comprehensive analysis of major switching, looking at the patterns of switching in both academic and non-academic dimensions. Low grades signal academic mismatch and predict switching majors - and the lower the grades, the larger the switch in terms of course content. Surprisingly, these switches do not improve students’ grades. When students switch majors, they switch to majors that "look like them": females to female-heavy majors, and so on. Lower-ability women flee competitive majors at high rates, while men and higher-ability women are undeterred. Women are far more likely to leave STEM fields for majors that are less competitive – but still somewhat science-intensive – suggesting that leaving STEM may be more about fleeing the "culture" of STEM majors than fleeing science and math.
Neal's paper on job mobility featuring the following quote mentioned in the episode:
"To the extent that college provides an opportunity for premarket search over potential careers, this result [of fewer career changes among college graduates] is to be expected." (p. 250)
Mon, 20 August 2018
Is public schooling a public good, a merit good, or a demerit good? Public schooling fails both conditions specified in the standard economic definition of a public good. In order to place public schooling into one of the remaining two categories, I first assess all of the theoretical positive and negative externalities resulting from public schooling as opposed to publicly financed universal school vouchers. Then, in an original contribution to the literature, I quantify the magnitude and sign of the net externality of government schooling in the United States using the preponderance of the most rigorous scientific evidence.
We discuss this paper in addition to a recent blog post Corey wrote entitled "We Shouldn’t Need to Use Science to Grant Educational Freedom." Corey argues that we should have a strong presumption in favour of letting families choose where their kids go to school. In the academic debate on school choice, people adopt an implicit balance of evidence standard for supporting or opposing school choice. But it makes more sense to place the burden of evidence on those who seek to limit others' choices.
Fri, 23 March 2018
Phil Magness returns to the podcast to discuss the public choice economics of universities. We discuss the internal politics of universities, their rising reliance on adjunct scholars to teach courses, the increasing numbers of administrators staffing universities, and the trends in faculty employment across disciplines.
Sat, 3 March 2018
My guest for this episode is Bryan Caplan of George Mason University. We discuss his latest book, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, in which he argues that the social value of education is negative.
This may seem paradoxical, given that more educated individuals tend to earn more than less educated individuals. This can be explained in two ways: First, people who get more education were likely more skilled in the first place; in other words, there is a selection effect. Second, people who are already skilled can use education to demonstrate their skill to employers; economists call this signalling.
Signalling plays an important role in Bryan's understanding of the education system. He sees the causal effect of education on income as being 80 percent signalling and 20 percent learning. Most signalling models view signalling as negative sum: signals are costly, and to the extent that they help educated workers by pushing their resumes to the top of the pile, they harm uneducated workers by relegating their resumes to the trash bin. If everyone gets educated, then no one has a better chance of finding a job, but they bear the costs of many years and thousands of dollars of education.
Bryan draws on evidence from many different research areas to support his case, from economic research on the Sheepskin effect and comparisons between individual and national effects of education, to educational psychology research on "learning how to learn." We had an excellent conversation and I hope you will enjoy listening to it.