Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Literature Review Blog #3

Maryalice Hauer
Literature Review Blog #3

“College Major Choice and the Gender Gap”

Zafar, Basit. “College Major Choice and the Gender Gap.” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, no.364 Feb. 2009: JEL Classification. Print.

In regard to the present gender gap, “College Major Choice and the Gender Gap” attributes the divergence in major choice major among male and female students to differences both in innate abilities and in preferences. To further investigate the phenomenon, the article uses a study conducted at Northwestern on a sample of 161 sophomore students, who responded to a survey. Results of the data collected demonstrated similar responses from male and female students in regard to their in-college preferences, such as the importance of enjoying coursework. But the responses of male and female students differed significantly in regard to their workplace preferences, with female students concerned with outcomes such as their parents approval of their careers and enjoying the work itself, and male students more concerned with outcomes such as social status at their jobs and income level. The conclusion of this article states that although these findings present interesting implications, gender differences in major choice remains a highly complex issue with a multitude of factors at play. There can be no concrete explanation for the current phenomenon.

Basit Zafar
Basit Zafar is a Research Officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he specializes in labor economics and economies of education. His research examines how individuals makes decisions and the factors that influence their decision making process. This author is extremely knowledgeable i subject areas that directly pertain to my research topic, and analyzes the issue of sex segregation at a deeply personal level. The studies he conducts and analyze are specifically designed to create subjective circumstance to truly allow uncertainty to be present in the decision making process, as  it so often is in real life. I find it extremely interesting that he allows uncertainty to be a present factor in his study because it makes the results so much more realistic. The majority of undergraduate students are uncertain about their major choice, and may choose based on a variety of factors such as pressure from friends or family, that do not necessarily reflect their actual interest in the field they choose to major in. The fact that this author takes this into consideration is extremely impressive, and his article has been a valuable contribution to my research.  

Key Terms
  • Pecuniary Outcomes: outcomes related to money

  • Random Utility Model: a choice model that allows/accounts for uncertainty the decision making process
  • uncertainty in regard to outcomes such as economic returns, personal tastes and abilities
  • accounts heterogeneity in beliefs
  • treats the decision as a  dynamic one

“The choice of major is treated as a decision made under uncertainty- uncertainty about personal tastes, individual abilities, and realizations of outcomes related to choice of major” (p 1)

“Non Pecuniary outcomes at college are most important in the decisions of females, while pecuniary outcomes realized at the workplace explain a substantial part of the choice for males” (p 1)

“Gender differences in major choice are extremely complex, and no simple explanation can be provided for them. The analysis presented in this paper attempts to enhance our understanding of these issues” (p 28)

This article is an extremely valuable resource to my research paper because it analyzes the complexity of the decision making process that takes place in regard to college major choice. It analyzes this process at a deeply personal level, which has broadened my perspective of the issue. As I read more about the survey that was conducted to derive these results, I learned that the survey was broken down into three sections. The first collected demographic and background information of the student participant. The second provided a choice model, where majors were broken into clusters based on similarity, and the student would choose a cluster that included several majors surrounding a general subject area. This was done purposely to allow for uncertainty in the decision, knowing that the majority of undergraduate students are, indeed, uncertain about their choice of a major. Having a general understanding of aptitude and interest in a certain subject area, and knowing you would like to pursue a career in that general field, is different than choosing one absolute major that will ultimately determine your career trajectory. I found the details of this study to be extremely interesting, and set it apart from a variety of other studies that have been conducted on the issue. The uniqueness of this study and the  in-depth personal analysis it employs makes this article an extremely valuable resource for my research.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a good article. I think you may want to review all of the major explanations for the gender gap yourself and talk about how there are multiple complex factors at play. It would be good if you found one particular approach most compelling, or most useful for practical solutions. Meanwhile, it would be useful to review the major strands of academic thinking on the issue.