Are Changes of Major Major Changes? The Roles of Grades, Gender, and Preferences in College Major Switching (with Jamin Speer )

The choice of college major is a key stage in the career search. Almost half of college graduates switch majors at least once, suggesting that major choice is a process rather than a single decision. This paper provides the first comprehensive analysis of major switching, modeling the choice process as a matching problem between student and major on both academics and preferences. Low grades signal academic mismatch and predict switching majors - and the lower the grades, the larger the switch in terms of course content. Additionally, when students switch majors, they switch to majors that "look like them": females to female-heavy majors, blacks to black-heavy majors, and so on. Lower-ability women flee competitive majors at high rates, while higher-ability women and men of all abilities are undeterred. Women are far more likely to leave STEM fields and to switch to majors that are less competitive - but not less science or math-intensive - suggesting that leaving STEM is more about fleeing the "culture" and makeup of STEM majors than it is about fleeing science and math.

Advertising and Pricing When Attention is Limited (with Joaquin Lopez and Aleksandr Yankelevich)

We analyze markets where firms that compete on price advertise to vie for consumers' limited attention. Our baseline model of attention has a number of desirable properties. It offers an explanation for price dispersion in homogeneous goods markets in the absence of search costs. Moreover, it leads to a unique symmetric price distribution that changes from competitive to monopoly pricing as attention becomes more limited. When firms can influence consumer attention by advertising and the cost of advertising is low, advertising leads firms to a prisoner's dilemma that adversely impacts profits without changing prices. However, moderately costly advertising permits firms to raise prices and possibly profits by segmenting the market.

Expectations and Follow-Through: The Roles of Confidence and Non-Cognitive Skills for Self-Employment (with Andrew Hussey and Daniel Mangrum)

We examine the predictors of both long-term expectations of self-employment and future self-employment activities and earnings among the same individuals, with a particular focus on gender differences and the roles of non-cognitive skills. Using longitudinal data from the GMAT Registrant Survey, which includes prospective graduate management students, our analysis involves wide-ranging and novel sets of variables, including work-life balance and job preferences, self-efficacy, confidence, and other non-cognitive skills or characteristics. We find notable differences in the drivers of self-employment and self-employment expectations between men and women, and also large differences in the set of variables that relate to self-employment intentions versus future self-employment outcomes. While preferences for work-life balance matter more for men's expectations, preferences about non-monetary characteristics of the job, such as job security and interesting work, matter more for women. In contrast, regarding actual self-employment, only non-cognitive skills play a substantial role for women, while men are driven mostly by preferences over work-life balance. Confidence in one's quantitative skills influences self- employment decisions, especially for women, and it also affects success in both the self-employed and the traditionally employed sectors, as reflected in earnings.

Kin Targeted Altruism with Noise

Can pure altruism generate strategic altruism when kin recognition is noisy? This paper studies a prisoners' dilemma played between two people who exhibit altruistic preferences towards kin. The probability that a player's opponent is kin is common knowledge. Instead of observing the degree of relatedness with the other player, each player observes a noisy private signal. When the game is played once, players cooperate only with those identified as kin. However, when the prisoners' dilemma is played for two periods instead of one, uncertainty about relatedness brings strategic considerations into the game even if the odds of being related are small. Depending on the parameters, there are Perfect Bayesian Equilibria in which players cooperate in the first round even after getting a negative kin signal. Since a player can make inferences about her opponent's signal based on first period actions, a non-relative mimics kin to induce cooperation in the second period.


Research Initiation: Forming the Empathic Engineer - A Path to Gender Equity in the Profession (with Eddie L. Jacobs, Yonghong J. Xu and Amy de Jongh Curry - Funded by NSF)

Entrepreneurship, Risk Aversion and Risk Sharing with a Stock Market (with Bill Smith)