College majors and social mobility

Gregory C. Wolniak, Tricia A. Seifert, Eric J. Reed, Ernest T. Pascarella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To further our understanding of social mobility in the United States, this study examines the role of major field of study during college, and the relationships between origin characteristics and education attainment. Data, collected in 2001, consisted of information on the college and labor market experiences of 4435 alumni from 30 colleges, as well as matched ACT data on alumni background and pre-college characteristics from three cohorts of college graduates up to 25 years after college. Results indicate that both placement on and movement along the social ladder are affected by college major, and the extent to which status is awarded based on merit relative to inherited economic resources is partially dependent upon major.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-139
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • College major
  • Earnings
  • Higher education
  • Status attainment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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