Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Publications Is improving access to university enough? Socio‐economic gaps in the earnings of English graduates

Is improving access to university enough? Socio‐economic gaps in the earnings of English graduates

Journal article | Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics

Much research and policy attention has been on socio‐economic gaps in participation at university, but less attention has been paid to socio‐economic gaps in graduates’ earnings. This paper addresses this shortfall using tax and student loan administrative data to investigate the variation in earnings of English graduates by socio‐economic background. We find that graduates from higher income families (with median income of around 77,000) have average earnings which are 20% higher than those from lower income families (with median income of around £26,000). Once we condition on institution and subject choices, this premium roughly halves, to around 10%. The premium grows with age and is larger for men, in particular for men at the most selective universities. We estimate the extent to which different institutions and subjects appear to deliver good earnings for relatively less well off students, highlighting the strong performance of medicine, economics, law, business, engineering, technology and computer science, as well as the prominent London‐based universities.

More on this topic

Press release
By age 27, graduates are 10 percentage points more likely to have moved away from the area where they grew up than otherwise similar non-graduates.
IFS Working Paper W21/24
Using a large and novel administrative dataset, this paper investigates variation in returns to different higher education ‘degrees’ (subject-institution combinations) in the United Kingdom.
Press release
Equal access to higher education for students from all socio-economic and ethnic groups is a key aim of UK education policy. New research at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), commissioned by the Department for Education, looks at the financial benefit that students from different ...