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WP 34/02Predicting Academic Discipline Choice Using Students ’ Subjective Utilities ⋆

By Niels Smits, Harrie Vorst, Don Mellenbergh, Niels Smits, Harrie C. M. Vorst and Gideon J. Mellenbergh


In this article, both economics and psychology were used to derive predictors of university students ’ discipline choice. From economics the idea of utility maximization was used. Using psychological theory non-monetary profits of education were made explicit. Freshmen of nine different university disciplines (law, history, economics, psychology, political sciences, English linguistics, Spanish linguistics, medical biology, and dentistry) evaluated thirteen benefits, that were associated with their study. These subjective utilities were grouped into four types of utilities: prospects of a good career, acquiring general knowledge, the effort a study requires, and the possibility to interact with other people. Large differences were found between disciplines on the utility scores. The utilities and gender were used in a multinomial logit model to predict discipline choice. The model correctly predicted discipline choice for 61 % of the student sample. Further analysis showed that the exclusion of gender did not decrease model fit substantially

Topics: Key words, Academic Specialization, Economic Income PsycINFO Code, 3500 JEL Code, I21, J24
Year: 2011
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