account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upawarded books calendar close-modal closedate delete document education emailevent facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay plusplyr-pause plyr-play post preview project publication reports search-bigsearch share star-full star-open startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

Estimating the human capital of graduates

Researchers: Professor Anna Vignoles | Professor Neil Shephard ...

Project overview


This project used anonymised tax data and student loan records for 260,000 students to look at the link between earnings and students’ background, degree subject and university attended up to ten years after graduation.

The study found that those from richer backgrounds (defined as being from approximately the top 20% of households of those applying to higher education in terms of family income) did better in the labour market than the other 80% of students.

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.

Main findings
  • The average gap in earnings between students from higher- and lower-income backgrounds is £8,000 a year for men and £5,300 a year for women, ten years after graduation in 2012/13.
  • Even after taking account of subject studied and the characteristics of the institution of study, the average student from a higher-income background earned about 10% more than the average student from other backgrounds. The gap is bigger at the top of the distribution £ the 10% highest-earning male graduates from richer backgrounds earned about 20% more than the 10% highest earners from relatively poorer backgrounds even after taking account of subject and the characteristics of the university attended. The equivalent premium for the 10% highest-earning female graduates from richer backgrounds was 14%.
  • Non-graduates are twice as likely to have no earnings as are graduates ten years on (30% against 15% for the cohort who enrolled in higher education in 1999 and observed in 2011/12).
  • Partly as a result of this, half of non-graduate women had earnings below £8,000 a year at around age 30. Only a quarter of female graduates were earning less than this. Half were earning more than £21,000 a year.
  • Among those with significant earnings (which we define as above £8,000 a year), median earnings for male graduates ten years after graduation were £30,000. For non-graduates of the same age, median earnings were £22,000.
  • The equivalent figures for women with significant earnings were £27,000 and £18,000.
  • More than 10% of male graduates from LSE, Oxford and Cambridge were earning in excess of £100,000 a year ten years after graduation in 2012/13, with LSE graduates earning the most. LSE was the only institution with more than 10% of its female graduates earning in excess of £100,000 a year ten years on.
  • A large number of institutions (36 for men and 10 for women) had 10% of their graduates earning more than £60,000 a year ten years on.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, there were some institutions (23 for men and 9 for women) where the median graduate earnings were less than those of the median non-graduate ten years on. It is important to put this in some context though. Given regional differences in average wages, some very locally focused institutions may struggle to produce graduates whose wages outpace England-wide earnings, which include those living in London where full-time earnings for males are around 50% higher than in some other regions, such as Northern Ireland.

Latest on this project


Team


  • Professor Anna Vignoles
    University of Cambridge
  • Professor Neil Shephard
    Harvard University
  • Professor Lorraine Dearden
    Institute for Fiscal Studies

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

New

Education | 2021 - 2023

Reading for meaning: Reciprocal Reading Secondary for struggling readers in KS3

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
Girl with mum reading School availability parental labour supply and family wellbeing
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

COVID-19 and school availability: impact on parental labour supply and well-being

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Pension saving over the lifecycle

View project
Older-man-reads-textbook-Assembling-data-jigsaw-Greater-Manchester-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2024

Assembling the data jigsaw: powering robust population research in MSK disease

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Medical-professional-massages-patient-knee-Understanding-joint-replacement-surgery-decision-making-for-older-patients-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Supporting older patients to make informed decisions about knee surgery

View project
Woman-medical-professional-treats-patient-impact-MSK-conditions-outcomes-other-illnesses-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on outcomes of other illnesses

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
Female-nurse-sees-patient-in-office-Integrating-enriched-longitudinal-data-North-Staffordshire-Stoke-on-Trent-PROJ
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2025

Enriched data integration for population musculoskeletal health intelligence

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
New

Education | 2021 - 2023

Reading for meaning: Reciprocal Reading Secondary for struggling readers in KS3

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Pension saving over the lifecycle

View project
Girl with mum reading School availability parental labour supply and family wellbeing
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

COVID-19 and school availability: impact on parental labour supply and well-being

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
In progress

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and well-being: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
New

Education | 2021 - 2023

Reading for meaning: Reciprocal Reading Secondary for struggling readers in KS3

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Pension saving over the lifecycle

View project
Girl with mum reading School availability parental labour supply and family wellbeing
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

COVID-19 and school availability: impact on parental labour supply and well-being

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
In progress

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

Vulnerability, migration and well-being: experiences, perceptions and barriers

View project
Toddler-gleefully-eats-baked-beans-How-COVID-19-is-affecting-food-security-proj
In progress

Welfare | 2020 - 2021

How the COVID-19 crisis is affecting food security

View project
Reported

Education | 2014 - 2015

The Nuffield Languages Inquiry and Nuffield Languages Programme

View project
Reported

Education | 2003 - 2003

Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2013 - 2017

IFS Green Budget 2013 – 2016

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Houses of Parliament and River Thames. The Assessment Reform Group aimed to ensure government policy was informed by research
Reported

Education | 1996 - 2010

The Assessment Reform Group

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2013 - 2016

Data about fathers in birth cohort studies (Life Study)

View project
Reported

Education | 2013 - 2019

Pupils’ understanding of evolution and inheritance

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2017

General Election 2017

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2015 - 2018

Bridging the Evidence Gap in Family Proceedings

View project
Reported

Education | 2013 - 2016

When to teach what? Sensitive learning periods and adolescence

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Interdisciplinary conference on evidence use in policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Valuing data: foundations for data policy

View project
Search projects

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

Profile