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Differences by Degree: Evidence of the Net Financial Rates of Return to Undergraduate Study for England and Wales

Author

Listed:
  • Yu Zhu

    () (School of Economics, University of Kent)

  • Ian Walker

    () (Department of Economics,Lancaster University Management School)

Abstract

This paper uses the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the latest and largest dataset available, to provide independent estimates of returns to higher education qualifications in the UK for graduates with different degree majors, class of first degree, and postgraduate qualifications. For reasons of sample size, we collapse various undergraduate degrees into four broad subject groups: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - and here we also include Medicine); LEM (Law, Economics and Management), OSSAH (other social sciences, arts and humanities which includes languages), and COMB (those with degrees that combine more than one subject). We adopt a method which allows our data to identify the effects of experience on earnings separately from cohort effects in wages for different degree majors. We also allow for tuition fees and the tax system in calculating the NPV associated with higher education (and also the loan scheme). Ordinary Least Squares estimates show high average returns for women that does not differ by subject. For men, we find very large returns for LEM but not for other subjects. Degree class has large effects in all subjects suggesting the possibility of large returns to effort and ability. Postgraduate study has large effects, independently of first degree class. A large rise in tuition fees across all subjects has only a modest impact on relative rates of return suggesting that little substitution across subjects would occur. The strong message that comes out of this research is that even a large rise in tuition fees makes little difference to the quality of the investment – those subjects that offer high returns (LEM for men, and all subjects for women) continue to do so. And those subjects that do not (especially OSSAH for men) will continue to offer poor returns. The effect of fee rises is dwarfed by existing cross subject differences in returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Yu Zhu & Ian Walker, 2011. "Differences by Degree: Evidence of the Net Financial Rates of Return to Undergraduate Study for England and Wales," Working Papers 33, AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium.
  • Handle: RePEc:laa:wpaper:33
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    File URL: http://www2.almalaurea.it/universita/pubblicazioni/wp/pdf/wp33.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ian Walker & Yu Zhu, 2008. "The College Wage Premium and the Expansion of Higher Education in the UK," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 110(4), pages 695-709, December.
    2. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
    3. Edwin Leuven & Hessel Oosterbeek & Bas van der Klaauw, 2010. "The Effect of Financial Rewards on Students' Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1243-1265, December.
    4. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2008. "Earnings Functions and Rates of Return," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-31.
    5. Blundell, Richard, et al, 2000. "The Returns to Higher Education in Britain: Evidence from a British Cohort," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages 82-99, February.
    6. Montmarquette, Claude & Mahseredjian, Sophie & Houle, Rachel, 2001. "The determinants of university dropouts: a bivariate probability model with sample selection," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 475-484, October.
    7. Nigel C. O’Leary & Peter J. Sloane, 2005. "The Return to a University Education in Great Britain," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 193(1), pages 75-89, July.
    8. Montmarquette, Claude & Cannings, Kathy & Mahseredjian, Sophie, 2002. "How do young people choose college majors?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 543-556, December.
    9. Eide, Eric & Brewer, Dominic J. & Ehrenberg, Ronald G., 1998. "Does it pay to attend an elite private college? Evidence on the effects of undergraduate college quality on graduate school attendance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 371-376, October.
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    11. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2009. "The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 95-118, Fall.
    12. Richard Blundell & Lorraine Dearden & Barbara Sianesi, 2005. "Evaluating the effect of education on earnings: models, methods and results from the National Child Development Survey," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 473-512.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rate of return; college premium;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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