When and for Whom Does it Pay to Attend a Prestigious University? Social Origin, Elite Education and Graduates' Career Trajectories

Klein, Markus (2019) When and for Whom Does it Pay to Attend a Prestigious University? Social Origin, Elite Education and Graduates' Career Trajectories. Working paper. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.

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    Abstract

    The literature on social stratification has paid considerable attention to the question of whether and to what extent attending prestigious universities is advantageous for graduates’ labor market returns. This paper contributes to the literature by applying a more dynamic perspective in asking whether graduates from prestigious and less prestigious universities differ in their career progression across fourteen years since their labor market entry. It further investigates whether graduating from prestigious universities pays off more or less for graduates from different educational backgrounds. While the positive selection hypothesis suggests that students who are most likely to attend prestigious universities will benefit the most from it, it is students who are least likely to attend under the negative selection hypothesis. The empirical analysis draws on the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) following the lives of people born in England, Scotland, and Wales in a single week of 1970. To analyze differences in career progression between graduates from different institutions in a holistic way, I applied multilevel growth curve modeling. Results show that graduates from prestigious Russell Group universities have steeper growth curves in occupational prestige after the initial labor market entry than graduates from other institutions. However, graduates from other universities catch up with their peers in later career stages. The early Russell Group premium is higher for first-generation graduates than for graduates from high educational backgrounds providing evidence for the negative selection hypothesis.