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College Major Choice, Spatial Inequality and Elite Formation: Evidence from South Africa

Biniam B. Bedasso
Publication date: 
September 2015

This paper explores the determinants of college major choice in the presence of significant inter-group and spatial inequalities. I combine four years of admissions application data at an elite university in South Africa with quarterly labor force data to trace the link between aptitude-weighted expected earnings, spatial inequality and the choice of college major. The results show that much of the effect of expected earnings on college major choice operates through the choice of high school curriculum. Black and white individuals respond to differentials in expected earnings differently. Spatial inequality influences major choice through high school curriculum, near-peer role models and relative achievement at high school level. Identification is achieved through the help of a rich set of academic and geographic information contained in the admissions database. 

Publication PDF: 
Series title: 
Working paper 552
Education Finance and Policy Journal