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British men earn 20 per cent more if a parent went to university

ByAmanda Ho

Nov 11, 2014
Courtesy of Raja Sambasivan via flickr.

British men are likely to earn more if they were raised by at least one university-educated parent, a recent study has shown.

Meanwhile, men born to mothers and fathers not holding a degree are likely to earn 20 per cent less than those with the same qualifications but from an educated background.

The study was conducted by researchers at The University of London’s Institute of Education. It focused on the salaries and backgrounds of 40,000 men aged between 25 and 59 across 24 countries, including Britain.

The findings proved that wage inequality could cross over from one generation to the next. Parents’ level of education had a profound impact on men’s income levels not just within the UK but within a handful of other countries.

According to suggestions by report authors Dr John Jerrim and Dr Linsey Macmillan, this may be because children of graduates are able to experience the perks of more expensive and higher quality education.

They may be more likely to attend private school and in turn, apply to more prestigious universities. Jerrim said: “It is also reasonable to assume that the sons and daughters of families with greater financial resources may be given more time to find a suitable job than those from less advantaged backgrounds.”

Opportunities to study traditionally respected subjects such as law or medicine or to go on to further study are also broadened, which is inextricably linked to better jobs and higher earnings.

However, not everyone agrees on this point. University of Edinburgh student Liam Gordon claims that his schooling or potential prospects at a future job are not hindered despite the fact that both of his parents did not attend university. In fact, he thinks it has had the opposite effect.

Gordon told The Student: “I am more motivated to work to make money and that’s why I’ve decided to take on a part-time job on the weekends. I have to juggle that with school work, whereas those who are better off might think they can relax more.”

Moreover, although the primary study was focused on men, secondary analysis conducted for women also produced similar results.

Daughters of early school-leavers in England and Northern Ireland earned about 11 per cent less than their peers who were born to highly educated parents, even if they possessed the same qualifications.

In the UK, it was found that individuals from more privileged backgrounds are about eight times more likely to have a degree than those from less privileged homes.

By contrast, in Sweden, men and women aged 29 to 59 who have at least one graduate parent are about four times more likely to hold a degree than those born to parents who were early school-leavers.

The findings come a day after the study published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed that university graduates who attended private school earn about 17 per cent more on average than those who were state-educated – equivalent to £4,200 a year.

The overall results highlight the relatively high levels of social immobility in England where disadvantage continues to be transmitted from parent to child, compared with other countries,.

Despite this, Conor Ryan, Director of Research at Sutton Trust, said that the study “highlights the potential importance of improved university access in breaking down barriers for future generations”.

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