Education & Family

Private school graduates 'out-earn state counterparts'

Eton school boys Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Private schooling was found to be an advantage in the graduate labour market

UK graduates who went to private schools earn thousands of pounds more, on average, than their state-educated peers, research finds.

The study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies says the pay gap is more than £4,500 a year, raising questions over education's impact on social mobility.

It says the privately educated are more likely to attend elite universities and study subjects that lead to higher pay.

Ministers say reforms are closing the gap between rich and poor.

The researchers gathered data from a cohort of more than 200,000 graduates who completed their undergraduate degree at a UK university in 2007.

They compared the wages - six months and three-and-a-half years after graduation - of those who sat their A-levels at a state school with those who went to a fee-paying school.

Prestigious universities

The researchers found that, of those who were in work three-and-a half years after graduation, those who had been to a private school were earning, on average, £28,592 - £4,548 more than the average salary for state school graduates (£24,044).

Private school overall: £21,643 State school overall: £18,919
Private school females: £20,436 State school females: £18,259
Private school males: £22,996 State school males: £19,903
Private school: £28,592 State school: £24,044
Private school females: £26,316 State school females: £22,861
Private school males: £31,078 State school males: £25,755

The IFS study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, says this wage gap is partly because independent school pupils tend to go to more prestigious universities and are more likely to study subjects that are linked to higher earnings.

But when the researchers took other factors - such as an individual's socio-economic background and ethnicity and the region in which they studied - into account, they still found privately schooled university graduates earned some 7% more, on average, than their peers from maintained schools.

The research also assessed graduates from similar backgrounds, who went to the same university to study the same subject and went into the same job after gaining their degree.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The study said private school pupils tended to study subjects associated with higher rewards

It found that even in these cases, those who attended a fee-paying school earned around 6% - equivalent to around £1,500 a year - more on average.

It says: "These results suggest that there remains a challenge for policymakers interested in the role of higher education as a route to social mobility.

Social mobility

"While these data only provide an early indication of the extent to which graduates' earnings differ by family background, they may be indicative of a longer-term relationship between socio-economic background and graduates' labour market success."

Dr Claire Crawford, assistant professor of economics at the University of Warwick and research fellow at the IFS, one of the authors of the research, said: "Education is often regarded as a route to social mobility.

"But our research shows that, even amongst those who succeed in obtaining a degree, family background - and in particular the type of school they went to - continues to influence their success in the work place.

"These results suggest that there is a pressing need to understand why private schooling confers such an advantage in the labour market, even amongst similarly achieving graduates, and why higher education does not appear to be the leveller it was hoped to be."

A study by the Social Market Foundation for the Sutton Trust, published in July, found UK children who are privately educated are likely to earn almost £200,000 more between the ages of 26 and 42 than those attending state schools.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We have reformed the school curriculum and qualifications to ensure every child learns the core knowledge in the key subjects like English, maths and science - the ones universities and employers value the most - and our plan for education is also ensuring every child of whatever background will leave school with the broader skills and experiences they need to succeed."

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