Rosen (2004) suggests that the engineering market responds strongly to economic forces. The demand for engineers responds to the price of engineering services and demand shocks such as recessions and defence cuts. Supply and enrolment decisions are remarkably sensitive to career prospects in engineering. Students also appear to use some forward-looking elements to forecast demand for engineers. Many students also change their majors in light on more information on whether the like their current choices and other news (Bettinger 2010).
This evidence of students use forward-looking elements to forecasting the occupational demand for human capital suggests that better information may improve these choices. The government has made a distributional judgment to expand the choices open to women. The growing evidence of relatively accurate forward looking decisions making by students suggests that they will respond to additional information on prospects in different careers.
In addition, earnings from some occupations are also more uncertain than others. The STEM occupations are an example where shortages and, in particular, surpluses are more common because durable goods industries bear the bulk of business cycle risk. There is also the political unpredictability of defence and R&D spending. Women seem to prefer jobs that are more secure. Some occupations have higher risks of injury than others. Fewer parents, and both single fathers and single mothers, in particular, enter these more injury prone occupations.
These gender-based preferences about hazards and uncertainties will lead to fewer women entering occupations that are more injury prone or more at risk to recessions and industry-specific downturns. Occupational segregation will still persist in the labour market in the relative absence of either discrimination or a gendered division of labour and household effort.
Some people get quite excited about the growth benefits and externalities from investing in more human capital such as more young people going to university. In New Zealand, the number of graduates quadrupled over the last 30 years but the trend GDP growth rate is unchanged. Please explain?
Source: Education at a Glance 2015, section 6.
Some countries have experienced large increases in the number of young people graduating from University when compared to their parents. Germany and the USA aside, all countries have experienced a noticeable increase in young adults with tertiary degrees.
If human capital is such a major driver of economic growth, should not these countries with large increases in tertiary educated workers be anticipating a growth spurt? The gaps in tertiary attainment across the OECD are much less than they used to be for young adults. Ireland’s burst in tertiary educated workers was after the Celtic Tiger years, not before or during.
The USA, the gender pay gap gets worse if you go to college. By contrast, in Sweden and especially Canada the gender pay gap is much less for graduates than for those with a high school education.
In most countries in the chart above, going on to university and graduating does not reduce the gender pay gap by the time you reach your late 30s and early 40s. Best explanation for that is that part of the graduate wage premium is traded for work-life balance.