We’ve recently looked at how college majors compare with one another in terms of earnings. Here is a look at how they vary by geography.
We used data from the Minnesota Population Center’s 2012 IPUMS, an individual-level set of responses to the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey (ACS), slightly modified for statistical and privacy reasons. Among the many subjects covered on the ACS is educational attainment: Respondents are asked to give their highest level of education and, if they have a bachelor’s degree, what field they majored in.
Based on this data, we were able to find the most disproportionately popular major (among majors with at least 1,000 degree holders) in each state. These are degrees for which the rate of people holding that degree in a state is much higher than the rate of people holding that degree in the US overall, as explained in more detail below:
These are not the most common degrees held by the residents of the states, but instead degrees held at a disproportionately high rate. For example, 23,977 Floridians hold a degree in Criminology, out of 3,759,154 residents of that state who have at least a bachelor’s degree. This gives a rate of about 64 Criminology degree holders out of every 10,000 bachelor’s degree holders overall in Florida.
Meanwhile, for the United States as a whole, 98,475 people have a degree in Criminology, out of 63,954,947 degree holders overall. This gives a national rate of about 15 Criminology majors out of every 10,000 bachelor’s degree holders.
The location quotient of Criminology majors in Florida is the ratio of these two rates: 64 ÷ 15, which is a little above 4. So, there are about four times as many Criminology majors per 10,000 degree holders in Florida as there are in the nation as a whole. The map, then, shows the degree with the highest location quotient in each state.
Taking our data and finding the most commonly held degree in every state leads to a much more monotone result: In 35 states, the most common major is Business Management and Administration, which is also the most common major in the US as a whole: