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College Majors

This folder contains the data and code behind the story The Economic Guide To Picking A College Major.

All data is from American Community Survey 2010-2012 Public Use Microdata Series.

Download data here: http://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html

Documentation here: http://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/technical-documentation/pums.html


  • Assumes you've already downloaded the data and selected only records with non-NA values for college major (FOD1P)
  • Outputs data to csv


  • List of majors with their FOD1P codes and major categories.
  • Major categories are from Carnevale et al, "What's It Worth?: The Economic Value of College Majors." Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2011. http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth

Three main data files:

  • all-ages.csv
  • recent-grads.csv (ages <28)
  • grad-students.csv (ages 25+)

All contain basic earnings and labor force information. recent-grads.csv contains a more detailed breakdown, including by sex and by the type of job they got. grad-students.csv contains details on graduate school attendees.

Additionally, women-stem.csv contains data for scatter plot in associated DataLab post on women in science/technology jobs. It is a subset of recent-grads.csv. (Small easter egg: Check out my related Shiny app: https://bencasselman.shinyapps.io/new-test/)

Headers for recent-grads.csv are shown below:

Header Description
Rank Rank by median earnings
Major_code Major code, FO1DP in ACS PUMS
Major Major description
Major_category Category of major from Carnevale et al
Total Total number of people with major
Sample_size Sample size (unweighted) of full-time, year-round ONLY (used for earnings)
Men Male graduates
Women Female graduates
ShareWomen Women as share of total
Employed Number employed (ESR == 1 or 2)
Full_time Employed 35 hours or more
Part_time Employed less than 35 hours
Full_time_year_round Employed at least 50 weeks (WKW == 1) and at least 35 hours (WKHP >= 35)
Unemployed Number unemployed (ESR == 3)
Unemployment_rate Unemployed / (Unemployed + Employed)
Median Median earnings of full-time, year-round workers
P25th 25th percentile of earnigns
P75th 75th percentile of earnings
College_jobs Number with job requiring a college degree
Non_college_jobs Number with job not requiring a college degree
Low_wage_jobs Number in low-wage service jobs