Higher education boosts women’s earnings more than men’s

Women who go to university boost their earnings significantly more than their male counterparts, although female graduates earn little more than many men of the same age without degrees.

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The analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that at age 29 the average man who attended HE earns around 25% more than the average man (with five A*-C GCSEs) who did not. For women the gap is more than 50%.

The IFS that, to a large extent, this is because of higher school achievement and because university students are more likely to have come from a richer family than those who do not attend university. Filtering for this, it finds that female graduates’ earnings rise by 28% on average, compared to 8% for male graduates.

It states that the higher returns for women may be driven by the fact that women who attend HE typically work longer hours than those who do not and by the fact that graduates may delay having children.

Subject choice appears to be a very important determinant of returns. For men, studying creative arts, English or philosophy actually results in lower earnings on average at age 29 than people with similar background characteristics who did not go to HE at all. However, studying medicine or economics appears to increase earnings by more than 20% ,according to the analysis. For women, it finds that there are no subjects that have negative average returns, and studying economics or medicine increases their age 29 earnings by around 60%.

The IFS says institution and subject choice also appears to be highly important as are A Level results are also a factor. Its figures, for instance, show that men who study architecture at Cambridge earn on average £200,000 compared to £50,000 for women. The LSE was the institution where mean and women earned the most by the age of 29, with men earn £60,000 compared to £55,000 for women.

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