Grades as Signals of Comparative Advantage: How Letter Grades Affect Major Choices
Friday 8 October 2021 - 10:00-11:00 am
We investigate whether students' major choices are sensitive to their letter grades in introductory courses. We focus on social science and humanities students at the National University of Singapore, who are required to take introductory courses in multiple disciplines before declaring a major. Students in our setting observe their letter grades, but not the underlying numerical score. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that otherwise similar students around letter-grade cutoffs differ in their major choices: students just above a letter-grade cutoff are 1.21 percentage points more likely to major in the same field as the introductory course. The effects are larger in fields with higher income-GPA gradients. Our findings are consistent with a model where letter grades affect students' perceived major-specific abilities; students are, as a result, more sensitive to grades in fields with higher income-GPA gradients.
About the Speaker. Dr Xing Xia is currently Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. She is an applied-micro economist. Her primary research focus is on human capital, education, health, and the labor market. Her current research projects involve studying how the changing demand of the labor market influences the structure of the higher education market and how education institutions in return influence the labor market outcomes of college attendees. She also studies how natural disasters affect human capital accumulation in South East Asia. She holds a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Mathematics from Wuhan University, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University.