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State Graduation Requirements, High School Course Taking, and Choosing a Technical College Major

by Maya Federman
The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy ()

Abstract

I examine the changing patterns of enrollment of females and males in mathematics and science courses in high school between roughly the classes of 1982 and 1992. Course taking has increased in both subjects and, notably, the gender gap has closed. I also examine the impact of state graduation requirements on course taking patterns for males and females. Higher graduation requirements in mathematics and science are associated with increased course taking and the magnitude is similar for both females and males. Finally, I investigate the relationship between high school math and science course taking and college major choice for the latter cohort. Ability and taste are likely to affect both high school course selection and college major and students planning on choosing a technical major are more likely to choose to take additional math and science courses in high school. To address this issue of selection bias, I first include direct measures of ability and taste and then use variation in state graduation requirements to instrument for increased course taking. I find that the number of high school mathematics courses taken has a positive effect on the probability that a student chooses a technical major in college and that this result appears robust to correction for selection bias.

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