The early labour-market returns to upper secondary qualifications track in England

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This paper examines if people who followed the academic track (A-levels) rather than the vocational track (NVQs) in upper secondary education in England show differentiated occupational level and disposable income by age 25.

The authors consider England as an interesting country case because students are ‘free to choose’ which upper secondary track they follow, unlike in many other European countries where standardised tests and teachers’ recommendations play a much larger role.

Using survey and administrative data records for an English cohort born in 1989/90 (Next Steps & NPD data) the authors show that attaining academic rather than vocational upper secondary qualifications improves the chances of being employed in a service class occupation (e.g. professional and managerial occupations).

The paper also shows that attending university, and particularly a comparably more prestigious university (e.g. Russell Group university) further improves these chances.

The influence of this upper secondary education track remains even when considering socioeconomic background, lower secondary school attainment and access to higher education.

Interestingly, the researchers saw no difference in young people’s weekly net disposable income at age 25 although they put this down to this being a relatively early career stage.

To access the Durham OA version, click here.

This is part of a special issue prepared by the LIFETRACK project. Other articles of this special issue can be found here.