... measurement may become more difficult:
When research in 2011 showed that workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics earned a premium of 25 percent over other workers and have just a 5.5-percent unemployment rate, it reinforced strong economic incentives to get more people into those STEM fields.
But research like that might soon become more difficult to conduct. That’s because the U.S. Census Bureau wants to stop asking people in a key national survey about their field of study.
Since 2009 the bureau has collected data on people’s undergraduate fields of study as part of its American Community Survey, at the urging of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. The survey, which is based on responses from more than three million households, is used to collect demographic information and keep track of trends between the decennial censuses.
On this blog, we’ve previously written about how underemployment hit recent graduates and that ever-present question: “Is your college degree still worth it?” Without the field-of-study data from the American Community Survey, that research would have been nearly impossible to compile. ...
The division chief of the American Community Survey Office, Jim Treat, says a cost-benefit analysis was used to make the recommendation that the question be dropped. In an email to The Chronicle, Mr. Treat wrote that his office had looked at the perceived burden of including each question and had surveyed federal agencies to see which data were used.
If the Census Bureau were to drop the question, Mr. Gawalt said, it would not be impossible for the NSF to run its own survey again, but doing so wouldn’t be cheap. Before the Census added the field-of-degree question, he said, the NSF spent an estimated $17-million to compile the information, and the data had less detail than the American Community Survey provides. The NSF’s elimination of its survey resulted in savings of $4-million every other year.
This is a good example of a benefit-cost analysis that assigns standing to only a limited group. Since taxpayers are funding the ACS it seems like standing should be assigned to all users of the data and not just federal agencies.
Here is a (very) recent paper (that I've just printed out and hope to read over the break) that finds an "economics major" wage premium:
Carroll, Thomas, Djeto Assane, and Jared Busker. "Why it Pays to Major in Economics." The Journal of Economic Education 45, no. 3 (2014): 251-261.
Abstract: In this article, the authors use a large, recent, and accessible data set to examine the effect of economics major on individual earnings. They find a significant positive earnings gain for economics majors relative to other majors, and this advantage increases with the level of education. Their findings are consistent with Black, Sanders, and Taylor (2003), documenting that about two-thirds of the bachelor's degree premium for economics majors can be attributed to the type of job economics majors perform, and about one-third is a premium that economics majors earn over other workers within the same job.