Why Do Women Choose College Majors With Lower Earnings Potential Than Men?

A new study authored by Natasha Quadlin, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, finds that both men and women college students say they want to pursue a major with the best earnings prospects. But the majors men choose are higher paying than the majors women choose.

Dr. Quadlin found that when men and women both prioritize economic returns in their preferences for a major, men still choose majors that pay more. But even when men and women prioritized other preferences for their major – such as helping people – men still chose higher-paying majors.

Why do women choose different majors from men, even when they share the same preferences? One reason may have to do with what jobs men and women think are realistic for them. “Men and women have very different ideas about what types of careers and fields are open and available to them,” Dr. Quadlin said.

Dr. Quadlin is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from Indiana University.

The full study, “From Major Preferences to Major Choices: Gender and Logics of Major Choice,” was published on the website of the journal Sociology of Education. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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