Despite decades of increasing gender equality, there remains a large gender gap in earnings. Recent work has highlighted two factors contributing to gender differences in labor market outcomes: gender differences in choice of college major and gender differences in the relationship between parenthood and earnings. Bringing these together, we study the expectations and preferences of college applicants in order to understand the role of parenthood considerations in shaping choice of college major. We conduct a large-scale survey experiment of college applicants in Denmark, where applicants submit their rank-ordered choices to a national clearinghouse that matches applicants to degrees. We elicit beliefs about labor market and family outcomes ten years after graduating from each of their top choices; and incorporate national administrative data on realized outcomes in prior cohorts. We find that applicants' beliefs about the relationship between college major and both earnings and parenthood are well aligned with the outcomes of prior cohorts. However, applicants do not anticipate gender differences in the relationship between parenthood and earnings. Examining preferences, we find that, compared to men, women have higher compensating differentials for parenthood, as well as for marriage/cohabitation, and satisfaction with work and studying. Gender differences in preferences account for about one-third of our predicted differences in the gender composition of majors; gender differences in expected outcomes account for about two-thirds.
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