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University Selectivity and the Relative Returns to Higher Education: Evidence from the UK

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  • Walker, Ian
  • Zhu, Yu

Abstract

We study the labour market wage outcomes of university graduates by course (i.e. by subject and institution) in the UK using the Labour Force Survey (LFS). We match this data to a measure of course “selectivity” (the mean standardised admission scores at the course level) using data on high school achievement scores of students admitted to these courses. Unlike earlier UK studies, we are able to consider the effect of differences across undergraduate degree subjects, and in particular the selectivity of both the subject studied and of the Higher Education Institution (HEI) attended. Our results show that selectivity of undergraduate degree programmes plays an important role in explaining the variation in the relative graduate wages across HEIs and subjects. In fact, much of the observed differential in relative wage outcomes across courses is due to the quality of students that HEIs select. That is not to say that the effect of course selectivity on wages implies that degrees are just signals of existing ability differences.

Suggested Citation

  • Walker, Ian & Zhu, Yu, 2017. "University Selectivity and the Relative Returns to Higher Education: Evidence from the UK," GLO Discussion Paper Series 133, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:133
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    Cited by:

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    2. Zhu,Yu & Xu, Lei, 2022. "Returns to Higher Education - Graduate and Discipline Premiums," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1091, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Adamecz-Völgyi, Anna & Henderson, Morag & Shure, Nikki, 2021. "Intergenerational Educational Mobility – The Role of Non-cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 14580, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Suqin Ge & Elliott Isaac & Amalia Miller, 2022. "Elite Schools and Opting In: Effects of College Selectivity on Career and Family Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(S1), pages 383-427.
    5. Guilherme Strifezzi Leal & Ã lvaro Choi, 2021. "Racial quotas in higher education and pre-college academic performance: Evidence from Brazil," UB Economics Working Papers 2021/411, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB School of Economics.
    6. Kang, Lili & Peng, Fei & Zhu, Yu, 2018. "Returns to higher education subjects and tiers in China - Evidence from the China Family Panel Studies," GLO Discussion Paper Series 238, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    7. Adamecz-Völgyi, Anna & Henderson, Morag & Shure, Nikki, 2020. "Is ‘first in family’ a good indicator for widening university participation?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    8. Wang, Haining & Cheng, Zhiming & Smyth, Russell & Sun, Gong & Li, Jie & Wang, Wangshuai, 2022. "University education, homeownership and housing wealth," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    9. Silva, Pedro Luís & Sá, Carla & Biscaia, Ricardo & Teixeira, Pedro N., 2022. "High School and Exam Scores: Does Their Predictive Validity for Academic Performance Vary with Programme Selectivity?," IZA Discussion Papers 15350, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Zheng, Yanqiao & Zhang, Xiaoqi & Zhu, Yu, 2021. "Overeducation, major mismatch, and return to higher education tiers: Evidence from novel data source of a major online recruitment platform in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C).
    11. Huang, Bin & Xu, Lei & Zhu, Yu, 2019. "Does the higher education expansion in the UK reduce the returns to education? A comparison of returning-from-work versus fresh out-of-school graduates," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 276-285.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    College selectivity; relative returns to higher education;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education

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