Profs at the Pub: "Major Restrictions and Social Stratification in the UC System and Beyond"

Profs at the Pub

Thu, February 18, 2021

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM PST

Public universities increasingly restrict entry into the highest-demand majors to students obtaining high grades in introductory courses, or qualifying through separate admissions procedures. While justified on academic grounds, such restrictions in practice limit the number of students served, often in response to surging student interest in "high-wage" majors and inadequate expansions in pedagogical resources.

The talk will analyze the effects of these restrictions at four UC campuses, demonstrating that they disproportionately filter out students from under-represented minority groups and lower-income families. Major restrictions are economically inefficient, in the sense that they do not match students to the majors that are their relative strengths. It will also show that some of the association between college major and wages is causal, which implies that major restrictions reduce public universities' effectiveness as engines of upward mobility and equal opportunity. The talk will conclude with a discussion of alternatives to major restrictions for campuses and departments struggling to cope with rising student numbers amidst resource scarcity.

Aashish Mehta is a development economist and Associate Professor of Global Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He studies employment patterns around the world, their relationship with globalization, and their implications for equitable development through education and work. He also collaborates frequently across disciplinary lines to study the functioning of a wide variety of public institutions. Prior to joining UCSB, he served as an economist at the Asian Development Bank. He is a recipient of UCSB's Distinguished Teaching Award.