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Reaching High: Occupational Sorting and Higher Education Wage Inequality in the UK

  • Jan Kleibrink
  • Maren M. Michaelsen


We analyse wage differentials between Higher Education graduates in the UK, differentiating between polytechnic and university graduates. Polytechnic graduates earned on average lower wages than university graduates prior to the UK Further and Higher Education Act of 1992. The reform changed the system of Higher Education by giving all polytechnics university status. We show that wage differentials can be explained by a glass ceiling which prevented polytechnic graduates from reaching managerial and professional occupations. After the reform, they overtook graduates of traditional universities in terms of average wages.

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Paper provided by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen in its series Ruhr Economic Papers with number 0377.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rwi:repape:0377
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  1. Jo Blanden & Stephen Machin, 2004. "Educational inequality and the expansion of UK higher education," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 17497, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Bauer, Thomas K. & Haisken-DeNew, John P., 2001. "Employer learning and the returns to schooling," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 161-180, May.
  3. Hussain, Iftikhar & McNally, Sandra & Telhaj, Shqiponja, 2009. "University Quality and Graduate Wages in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 4043, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Delaney, Liam & Harmon, Colm P. & Redmond, Cathy, 2011. "Parental Education, Grade Attainment and Earnings Expectations among University Students," IZA Discussion Papers 5646, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf & Zweimuller, Josef, 1997. "Unequal Assignment and Unequal Promotion in Job Ladders," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 43-71, January.
  6. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 1997. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 6279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Nigel C. O'Leary & Peter J. Sloane, 2011. "The Wage Premium For University Education In Great Britain During A Decade Of Change," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 79(4), pages 740-764, 07.
  8. Green, Francis & Machin, Stephen & Murphy, Richard & Zhu, Yu, 2010. "The Changing Economic Advantage from Private School," IZA Discussion Papers 5018, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Ian Walker & Yu Zhu, 2008. "The College Wage Premium and the Expansion of Higher Education in the UK," Working Papers 200817, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  10. Belfield, C. R. & Fielding, A., 2001. "Measuring the relationship between resources and outcomes in higher education in the UK," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 589-602, December.
  11. Lange, Fabian & Topel, Robert, 2006. "The Social Value of Education and Human Capital," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  12. Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 1995. "Selection corrections for panel data models under conditional mean independence assumptions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 115-132, July.
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