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Home Publications The impact of higher education on the living standards of female graduates

The impact of higher education on the living standards of female graduates

Chris Belfield and Laura van der Erve
IFS Working Paper W18/25

There have been many studies of the impact of higher education (HE) on the wages and earnings of graduates. However, for working women, the variation in wages only explains 30% of the variance in net family income. To understand the overall impact of HE on the living standards of female graduates, we explore the wider impact of HE. We exploit the rich cohort study data in the UK to show that, for women, acquiring HE quali cations increases net family income by around 20%. We fi nd that this increase is driven by higher wages, more working hours and assortative mating, which drives higher partner earnings. We show that the impact on women's own earnings is more important in their early 30s but the role of assortative mating becomes increasingly important at older ages. We compare two cohorts of women born 12 years apart and we show that the overall impact of HE on incomes has remained relatively unchanged. The impact on female labour supply has increased slightly, but this has been counteracted by a smaller wage effect. The role of assortative mating has become no less important. These results shed new light on the benefi ts for women of pursuing HE in the context of ever increasing participation rates.

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Universities are a key determinant of the earnings power of graduates. But when considering the role universities play in determining the living standards and socially mobility of graduates, it is vital to incorporate the wider impacts of higher education on both other sources of income and ...
Press release
We know that higher education provides a significant boost to earnings. But when considering future family income, other aspects matter too: how many hours graduates work, who they partner and how much tax they pay.