Collective Logic in College Field of Study Choice and Its Consequences

Sigal Alon , Tel Aviv University
Dafna Gelbgiser, Tel Aviv University

This study develops a conceptual framework on how individuals’ positional inequality shapes their decision-making and the choices they make. While the classical view of decision-making perceives it as a cognitive and individualistic process, this framework highlights the “collective logic” to capture the influences of the social context on the individuals’ decision-making. Using the unique dataset with information on Israeli college applicants’ revealed choices, we test this framework regarding Jewish-Arab differences in field of study choice sets. The results reveals a high level of segregation in choices related to Arab applicants’ greater tendency for risk taking. Most of the between-group disparity in risk taking is explained by differences in the weights placed on instrumental and social considerations, or, in other words, the collective logic. Yet, the risks that Arab applicants are willing to take in order to secure a stable employment and study in a friendly academic climate account for a substantial portion of the ethnic gap in admission rate. The discussion highlights the theoretical contributions to both decision-making and stratification theories and the policy implications of the collective logic in decision making.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy