For an optimal allocation of people in the labor market it is crucial that students in secondary education choose specializations in continued education that match demand by employers and fit to their capabilities, preferences and interest. We have shown that it is very hard for young people to make this choice. Previous research also shows that students who have an adequate picture of their future work are more motivated when they study. Many others regret their educational choice once they entered the labor market. Often they change industry or return to school. Low quality educational choices therefore generate large welfare losses that manifest in job dissatisfaction, higher schooling costs and larger foregone earnings. Measures to raise students awareness about the implication of their educational and occupational choices for their working life are therefore crucial to improve the utilization of human resources.
We are planning to create a panel of students in secondary education who we survey to elicit their school performance, personality (e.g. Big Five, locus of control), key economic preferences (e.g. time and risk preference), vocational interest (favorite occupation/ study), information on which their preferences for further education and occupational choice is based as well as other socioeconomic characteristics. Students in this data base will represent the subject pool for field experiments that will be conducted in the next stage. These experiments will be designed to investigate the effects of various interventions in which randomly assigned sub-groups of students are provided with different kinds of information about occupations and fields of studies, for example, he provision of general statistical information about jobs or targeted programs in which students get acquainted with particular occupations. These interventions will be evaluated with respect to the impact that they have on individuals actual choices, performance in their chosen further education or vocational training, and long-term labor market outcomes (including employment probabilities, labor income, and job satisfaction). While this is clearly a long-term project, we will concentrate in the first phase of the project with an exploration in which the setup of the panel is designed in cooperation with all participants. A pilot in a few schools will enable us to generate some first results. The goal in this initial phase of the project is to create the database and conduct research on the relationship between preferences, personality traits and the use of information in forming preferences for future educational and occupational choices.