Press Release

What and where you study matter for graduate earnings – but so does parents’ income

Date: 13 April 2016

Graduates from richer family backgrounds earn significantly more after graduation than their poorer counterparts, even after completing the same degrees from the same universities. This is one of many findings in new research published today which looks at the link between earnings and students’ background, degree subject and university attended.

The research used anonymised tax data and student loan records for 260,000 students up to ten years after graduation. This is the first time a ‘big data’ approach has been used to look at how graduate earnings vary by institution of study, degree subject and parental income. The data set includes cohorts of graduates who started university in the period 1998–2011 and whose earnings (or lack of earnings) are then observed over a number of tax years. In the paper, we largely focus on the tax year 2012/13.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, this work was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), UCL Institute of Education, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. The full working paper is available here and we also have an accompanying executive summary.