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Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers

Joseph Altonji, Erica Blom and Costas Meghir ()

No 17985, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: Motivated by the large differences in labor market outcomes across college majors, we survey the literature on the demand for and return to high school and post-secondary education by field of study. We combine elements from several papers to provide a dynamic model of education and occupation choice that stresses the roles of specificity of human capital and uncertainty about preferences, ability, education outcomes, and labor market returns. The model implies an important distinction between the ex ante and ex post returns to education decisions. We also discuss some of the econometric difficulties in estimating the causal effects of field of study on wages in the context of a sequential choice model with learning. Finally, we review the empirical literature on choice of curriculum and the effects of high school courses and college major on labor market outcomes.

JEL-codes: I21 J24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu, nep-hrm, nep-lab and nep-ltv
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Published as Joseph G. Altonji & Erica Blom & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 185-223, 07.

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