College Attendance and Choice of College Majors Among Asian-American Students


  • *The first-named author will share all data and coding materials with those wishing to replicate the study. This research is supported by a grant from NICHD (RO1-HD37054-02).

Chunyan Song, Department of Sociology, Arizona State University, PO Box 874802, Tempe, AZ 85287-4802


Objective. This study explores how various measures, ranging from assimilation, to human capital, to family capital, and Holland's career-development theories, affect Asian-American students' choice of college majors. To test our hypotheses, we examine choice of college major using a unique measure based on the early earning potential of a large number of specific majors.

Methods. Our data come from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS88). We use the Heckman selection approach to adjust for the nonrandom selection of college attendance and choice of college majors.

Results. The findings of the study show little difference between Asian men and white men. On the other hand, there are significant differences among women.

Conclusions. Chinese, Filipino, and Southeast Asian women are all more likely to choose more lucrative college majors than white women, controlling for all the other factors. Interestingly, effects of our assimilation, psychological, and some of the family capital measures are quite different for men than for women.