This research uses anonymised tax data and student loan records for 260,000 students up to 10 years after graduation to study graduate earnings. 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. In the paper, we largely focus on the tax year 2012/13 and we find that graduates from richer family backgrounds earn significantly more after graduation than their poorer counterparts, even after allowing for differences in institution attended and subject studied.
There are also particularly big differences in earnings according to which university a student attended. This is in large part, though by no means entirely, driven by differences in entry requirements to different institutions. Differences in earnings according to subject studied are also very substantial with medicine and economics being particularly high earning subjects.
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