Beyond Graduation: Stratification of Long-Term Socio-Economic Returns to Higher Education in Australia

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Wojtek TOMASZEWSKI, The University of Queensland, Australia
Francisco PERALES, University of Queensland, Australia
A wealth of international research shows that participation in Higher Education (HE), particularly at the advanced graduate level, has positive impacts on people’s socio-economic outcomes. The attainment of advanced tertiary-level educational qualifications is amongst the strongest predictors of subsequent success in the labour market, including the attainment of secure and continuous employment (OECD, 2006), high productivity and wage growth (Daly et al. 2015), and occupational standing (Hauser et al. 2000). There are also documented spill-over effects on other domains in life, such as psychical and mental health and wellbeing (Ross & Wu, 1995; Anstey & Christensen, 2000; Hill et al., 1998).

However, in the Australian context, concerns have recently been expressed about heterogeneous returns to HE, whereby graduates from more advantaged backgrounds reap more benefits from participation in HE than graduates from less advantaged backgrounds (Tomaszewski et al. 2017; Perales & Chesters, 2017). Despite these concerns, there is a dearth of research in Australia that specifically considers differences in long-term trajectories of graduates’ outcomes (recognising that the benefits of HE take time to accrue), and of studies that move beyond an exclusive focus on income (recognising that the benefits of HE are broader than its economic returns and, for example, include enhanced social and cultural capital, and improved wellbeing).

This paper seeks to address this gap in knowledge by investigating post-graduate outcome trajectories of students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. The research employs statistical analysis of high-quality, large-scale data from the Australian Government Census of Population and Housing (the Census) and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey to investigate the stratification of post-graduate outcomes of advantaged and disadvantaged students over the short, medium, and long run, and across a number of domains (labour market, social capital, wellbeing), discussing concrete implications for research and policy.