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How much does degree choice matter?

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  • Jack Britton
  • Laura van der Erve
  • Chris Belfield
  • Anna Vignoles
  • Matt Dickson
  • Yu Zhu
  • Ian Walker
  • Lorraine Dearden
  • Luke Sibieta
  • Franz Buscha
Article number102268
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Labour Economics
Number of pages22
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/11/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We use a large and novel administrative dataset to investigate returns to different university ‘degrees’ (subject-institution combinations) in the United Kingdom. Conditioning on a rich set of background characteristics, we find substantial variation in returns across degrees with similar selectivity levels, suggesting students’ degree choices matter a lot for later-life earnings. Returns increase with university selectivity much more at the top of the selectivity distribution than further down, and much more for some subjects than others. Returns are poorly correlated with observable degree characteristics other than selectivity, which could have important implications for student choices and the incentives of universities.