Risk and Career Choice

University of Pennsylvania
Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy 02/2005; 5(1):1414-1414.
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT Choosing a type of education is one of the largest financial decisions we make. Educational investment differs from other types of investment in that it is indivisible and non-tradable. These differences lead agents to demand a premium to enter careers with more idiosyncratic risk. Since the required premium will be smaller for wealthier agents, they will tend to enter careers with more idiosyncratic risk.After developing a model of career choice, we use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to estimate the risk associated with different careers. We find education, health care, and engineering careers to have relatively safe streams of labor income; business, sales, and entertainment careers are more risky.By choosing a college major, many students make a costly human capital investment that allows them to enter a specific career. To examine the link between wealth and college major choice implied by the model, we use data on choice of college major from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS). Controlling for observable measures of ability and background, we find evidence that wealthier students tend to choose riskier careers, particularly business.

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    ABSTRACT: We use a unique data set about the wage distribution that Swiss students expect for themselves ex ante, deriving parametric and non-parametric measures to capture expected wage risk. These wage risk measures are unfettered by heterogeneity which handicapped the use of actual market wage dispersion as risk measure in earlier studies. Students in our sample anticipate that the market provides compensation for risk, as has been established with risk augmented Mincer earnings equations estimated on market data: higher wage risk for educational groups is associated with higher mean wages. With observations on risk as expected by students we find compensation at similar elasticities as observed in market data. The results are robust to different specifications and estimation models.
    Economics of Education Review 01/2011; 30:215-227. · 1.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper examines whether conclusions about the relationship between education and labor market risk depend on the use of commonly applied procedures to clean data of extreme values. The analysis uses fifteen years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to demonstrate that conclusions about the relationship between education and labor market risk are sensitive to how extreme values of labor income are treated. The untrimmed estimates imply that college graduates experience 75% less transitory labor market risk than high school dropouts. However, applying commonly used trimming procedures results in estimates of a one standard deviation transitory labor market shock for high school dropouts being reduced by between $2700 and $4500, or 14% and 24% of annual earnings. The results demonstrate that seemingly innocuous sample selection procedures can have substantive implications.
    Economics of Education Review 01/2011; 30(3):528-545. · 1.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Social status concerns influence investors' decisions by driving a wedge in attitudes toward aggregate and idiosyncratic risks. I model such concerns by emphasizing the desire to “get ahead of the Joneses,” which implies that aversion to idiosyncratic risk is lower than aversion to aggregate risk. The model predicts that investors hold concentrated portfolios in equilibrium, which helps rationalize the small premium for undiversified entrepreneurial risk. In the model, status concerns are more important for wealthier households. Consequently, these households own a disproportionate share of risky assets, particularly private equity, and experience greater volatility of consumption, consistent with empirical evidence.
    The Journal of Finance 09/2010; 65(5):1755 - 1788. · 4.22 Impact Factor


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