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Essays on the Wider Returns to Education

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2022
Number of pages210
Awarding Institution
Award date23/08/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores the wider returns to Higher Education and heterogeneity of effects by type of graduates within the UK context. The first analysis examines the the role of non-cognitive skills in the financial returns to Higher Education. It finds that the inclusion of non-cognitive skills, themselves jointly significantly positive, reduces the estimated graduate premia by an insignificant 1-2 percentage points from an average of 10-12%. Since employed estimation methods are not robust to selection on unobservables, bias-adjusted treatment effects are obtained (following Oster, 2019) which serve as lower bounds. Results are further decomposed by broad major group and elite university to analyse heterogeneous returns, and find large degree class differentials.
The second analysis explores the correlation between graduate status and a wide variety of non-pecuniary outcomes with particularly strong associations with BMI, risk, no. of children aged 0-4, and Political Interest. It demonstrates how effects vary according to subject and institutional selectivity, and finds that the differences in social returns across subjects, and across institutional selectivity, are entirely insignificant under a less parsimonious specification that controls for personal and
parental background.
The third analysis treats wellbeing measures as catch-all variables that capture the wide variety of effects of a degree that might not be considered/covered otherwise. The results suggest that the graduate earnings premium underestimates the overall benefits of being a graduate since graduates feel that life is more worthwhile, are happier, have greater life satisfaction, although suffer from greater anxiety than do non-graduates. Although a mediating effect through income exists it does not eliminate the positive significant degree effects on wellbeing. The analysis also examines the traditional well-being U-shape in age - but finds that this seems to be a manifestation of cohort effects that have normally been ignored.