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Higher education, career opportunities, and intergenerational inequality

Crawford, C; Gregg, P; Macmillan, L; Vignoles, A; Wyness, G; (2016) Higher education, career opportunities, and intergenerational inequality. Oxford Review of Economic Policy , 32 (4) pp. 553-575. 10.1093/oxrep/grw030. Green open access

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Abstract

The UK government has expressed a desire to increase social mobility, with policies to help achieve this aim focused on reducing inequalities in educational attainment. This paper draws together established and new information about the contribution that higher education can make to social mobility using a life-course approach, considering differences by family background in terms of university attendance and achievement, as well as occupation and earnings following graduation. We find substantial socio-economic differences at each stage. Young people from poorer backgrounds are, on average, less likely to go to university than their richer peers. Even among the selected group who do go to university, they are less likely to attend the highest status institutions, less likely to graduate, and less likely to achieve the highest degree classes. These differences in degree outcomes contribute to the lower average earnings of graduates from poorer families, but earnings differentials go well beyond those driven purely by degree attainment or institution attended. The evidence strongly suggests that, even after taking these factors into account, graduates from affluent families are more likely to obtain a professional job and to see higher earnings growth in the labour market. We discuss the implications of these findings for the prospects of higher education as a route to greater social mobility.

Type: Article
Title: Higher education, career opportunities, and intergenerational inequality
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/oxrep/grw030
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/grw030
Language: English
Additional information: © The Authors 2016. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Higher education, social mobility, widening participation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership > Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1527471
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