How students choose majors during recessions

by VanessaVaile

If you haven’t read @BryanAlexander’s posts in the “future of education” category — with particular attention to those tagged “queen sacrifice” and found searching “adjunct”

Bryan Alexander

Students pick different majors when the economy is lousy than in good times.  That seems intuitively obvious, and can be confirmed by anecdotes.  It’s useful to have research exploring just how it works.  A recent discussion paper by Erica Blom, Brian C. Cadena, and Benjamin J. Keys (pdf) breaks down which majors students shift to and away from, noting key gender differences.

Here are two visualizations, nicely reformatted from the original article by Josh Zumbrun:

Majors Women Choose During a Recession

Majors Men Choose During a Recession

Looking at data from 1960 to 2011, Blom et al find that, generally and unsurprisingly, “graduates pursue more technical, more career-oriented, and more remunerative fields of study in response to temporary periods of weak labor demand.”  And “majors associated with higher salaries tend to gain share while majors associated with lower salaries tend to lose share in response to a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate.”  Note that one percentage point.  This suggests students…

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