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Nolan Pope, Economics UMD

Timing is Everything: Evidence from College Major Decisions
When Nov 04, 2019
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 1101 Morrill Hall
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

People rely on their experiences when making important decisions. In making these decisions, individuals may be significantly influenced by the timing of their experiences. Using administrative data, we study whether the order in which students are assigned courses affects the choice of college major. We use a natural experiment at the United States Military Academy in which students are randomly assigned to certain courses either during or after the semester in which they are required to select their college major. We find that when students are assigned to a course in the same semester as they select a major,they are over 100 percent more likely to choose a major that corresponds to that course. Despite low switching costs, approximately half of the effect persists through graduation. Our results demonstrate that the timing of when students are assigned courses has a large and persistent effect on college major choice. We explore several potential mechanisms for these results and find that students’ initial major choice best fits a framework we develop that incorporates salience and availability. Furthermore, our results suggest that once students select a major, they are less likely to switch majors than the standard model of economic choice predicts. Instead, students’ decision to remain in a major is more consistent with status quo bias.

About the Speaker

Nolan Pope

Dr. Pope's recent research focuses on how measuring and rating teacher quality affects both students and teachers through their entire educational process and how public policies influence underprivileged groups such as immigrants and low-income populations. Particularly, his research looks at how to improve inequality through longitudinal studies of students through the education system. It also looks at how immigrants and overall inequality are affected by immigration policies and the teaching of English as second language in the United States education system. In addition, he studies how low-income individuals are more adversely affected while traversing the criminal justice system.

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