The returns to undergraduate degrees by socio-economic group and ethnicity

Document type
Britton, Jack; Dearden, Lorraine
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Date of publication
26 March 2021
Education and Skills, Minority Groups, Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This research uses the Department for Education’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data set. The LEO data set links school records, university records and tax records for everyone who took GCSEs in England since 2002.

Average returns to undergraduate degrees at age 30 are positive for people from all socioeconomic and ethnic groups we study, but there is substantial heterogeneity across groups. Returns are especially high for privately-educated graduates, whose median earnings at age 30 are the highest of all groups. However, this research finds that the groups with the lowest graduate earnings, such as Pakistani students or state-educated students from the poorest families, also have relatively high returns from going to university. The reason is that the earnings prospects of these groups are very low on average if they do not attend university.

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