Study: Recessions Lead to Spike in College Engineering, Business Majors

By Briscoe, Tony | The Tuscaloosa News, July 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

Study: Recessions Lead to Spike in College Engineering, Business Majors


Briscoe, Tony, The Tuscaloosa News


CHICAGO | Many college students who pursue their studies during recessions develop a pragmatic approach and switch to majors with better job prospects, according to study published this month.

Benjamin Keys, assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, analyzed census data on college major choice in the U.S. from 1962 to 2013 with Brian Cadena at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Erica Blom at the consulting firm Edgeworth Economics, finding that for every 1 percent rise in the unemployment rate, more than 3 percent of men and 4 percent of women changed majors.

A 1 percent rise in joblessness translates into significant gains in the number of men majoring in engineering (0.6 percent), accounting (0.2 percent) and business (0.1 percent) and losses in education fields (0.4 percent) and sociology (0.1 percent). A 1 percent uptick in the unemployment rate means boosts in the share of women studying business fields (0.6 percent), nursing (0.3 percent) and accounting (0.2 percent) while there is an exodus from education (0.6 percent) and literature and languages fields (0.3 percent).

The unemployment rate rose 5 percentage points between December 2007 and October 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. …

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