The Role of Field Choice on Racial Differences in College Completion Rates

Anita H. Yuan, University of California, Los Angeles

Previous researchers have looked at how initial major choice affects college completion. However, a high percentage of students change majors within their first year of college (NCES 2001). Economic returns to a college education differ across fields (Berger 1988; NCES 2001) and so changing majors can affect the probability that one will continue with their schooling because the costs and benefits to pursuing postsecondary education may be different for the new field. In this paper I argue that occupation-specific social capital among Asians contributes to their higher college completion rates and that their achievement and probability of success varies by field of choice. Using data and the postsecondary transcript files from NELS: 88-00, I examine to what extent the higher completion rates of Asians in postsecondary schooling compared to whites, blacks and Hispanics is due to differences in choices of field of study.

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Presented in Poster Session 1