Inequality reproduction, higher education, and the double major choice in college

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inequality scholarship has long highlighted the role of education, including higher education, in both mobility processes and the reproduction of disadvantage. This article, drawing on a unique sample of nearly 22,000 undergraduate students in Israel, builds on and extends this body of work by analyzing the extent to which double majoring in college, types of double major combinations, and their potential labor market returns are stratified by social class. Two competing theories are proposed for explaining variations by subgroup: social reproduction theory and rational choice theory. My analyses and findings in these regards are strikingly clear: there are significant social class background advantages in the choice to double major, and with especially unique combinations of lucrative and non-lucrative fields among the more advantaged students. While students from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to double major, they were more likely to choose double lucrative majors. These results and the accompanying discussion, beyond highlighting the role of double majoring as a higher ordered and seldom discussed mechanism of inequality, point to the ways in which students across the social class hierarchy negotiate not only college but also their perceptions of how employers will eventually assess educational credentials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-186
Number of pages30
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Double major
  • Field of study
  • Mobility
  • Social inequality
  • Student choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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