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Breadth versus Depth: The Timing of Specialization in Higher Education

Ofer Malamud

LABOUR, 2010, vol. 24, issue 4, 359-390

Abstract: This paper examines the trade-off between early and late specialization in the context of higher education. I develop a model in which individuals accumulate field‐specific skills and receive noisy signals of match quality across different fields of study. I derive comparative static predictions between educational regimes with early and late specialization, and examine these predictions across British systems of higher education. Using survey data on 1980 university graduates, I find that individuals who switch to unrelated occupations have lower initial earnings, and that early specialization in England is associated with more costly switches. But higher wage growth among those who switch eliminates the wage difference after several years, and average earnings are not significantly different between England and Scotland.

Date: 2010
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