Skills, Majors and Jobs: Does Higher Education Respond?

Awarded Scholars:
Kevin M. Stange, University of Michigan
Stephen Hemelt , University of North Carolina
Brad J. Hershbein, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Project Date:
Sep 2019
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Future of Work

The most direct way for college students to build specific skills is through their choice of curriculum and field of study. However, we lack consistent information about what employers demand across major fields and how that has changed over time, how aware students and institutional leaders are of shifts in skill demand, and the extent to which students and colleges respond and adapt to such changes.

Economists Kevin Stange, Steven Hemelt and Brad Hershbein propose to provide descriptive and causal evidence on contemporary changes in major choice and skill accumulation in response to job openings. They expect that the explicit skill requirements provided by employers represent a more salient signal than information on wages. They hypothesize that employers care about skills, with majors being a noisy proxy for skills and occupations being noisy bundles of skills.


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