Study Reveals That First in Family Female Graduates Earn Less
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Multi-ethnic group of college student girl friends excitedly give each other big hugs after graduation ceremony. They stand on campus, hold diplomas, and wear black caps and gowns.

Study Reveals That First in Family Female Graduates Earn Less Than Peers

Ella Kipling February 10, 2022

A new study suggests that women who are first in their family to attend university earn 7% less in their mid-20s compared to those with university-educated parents. However, this data does not extend to first generation male graduates, who tend not to have a similar pay penalty.

The research was undertaken by the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Data was collected from over 7,700 participants taking part in Next Steps, a longitudinal cohort study which has been following the lives of a group of people in England, born in 1989-90, since secondary school.

After being analysed, the data shows that first generation university students are less likely to attend an elite institution and four-times more likely to drop out than those with graduate parents.

Support systems required

Dr Morag Henderson, lead author of the study from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, said: ‘Universities should target first generation students in their recruitment and ensure that there are systems to support them while at university. We recommend that universities target some of their successful mentoring schemes specifically to first in family students to reduce the risk of dropout among this group.’

Henderson explained that the government’s new plans to reduce dropout rates and set targets for entry into well-paid jobs among disadvantaged graduates ‘should consider those who are first in the family to attend university.’

Cheryl Lloyd, the education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said that this research confirms that ‘first in family’ should continue to be a component of ‘widening participation measures used by universities and other programmes aiming to support young people to access and succeed in higher education.’

Range of factors

The evidence shows that first in family female pay gap is only partly explained by the fact that, unlike first generation male graduates, female graduates have, on average, lower pre-university educational attainment than their female peers with at least one graduate parent.

First generation female graduates tend to work in smaller firms, have jobs that don’t require a degree, and are more likely to become mothers by age 25, the study shows.

The study also reveals that first generation graduates are more likely to select and be accepted on Law, Economics and Management courses, and less likely to select and be accepted on Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities courses than their peers with a graduate parent.

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Ella Kipling is an Entertainment and News Writer at GRV Media. She regularly writes a mixture of news and features for HITC and has been part of the team since 2020. After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA (Hons) in English Literature, Ella is currently studying for an MA in Magazine Journalism at City University. She has a keen interest in current affairs and can usually be found reading the news, with her nose in a book (and updating her Goodreads), talking about women’s rights, or listening to Showtunes.