Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 13:04 UK

Private school pupils 'earn more'

pupil studying
About 8% of children in the UK go to private schools

People who have been to private school earn 30% more than those who went to state schools, research suggests.

Family background has traditionally been seen as a major factor behind children's achievement and earnings.

Research by Kent University and the London School of Economics confirms this but says higher grades achieved at private schools are the crucial factor.

The study found that 20% of the pay gap was due to such better exam grades and 10% to family background.

The research, published in the journal Significance, suggests that the gap between earnings of state and private pupils has widened in the past 50 years.

About 8% of children in the UK go to independent schools.

For the study, researchers analysed data on 10,000 people from the British Household Study who went to school in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

'Substantial impact'

The authors concluded: "Private schools do indeed have a substantial impact on earnings later in life. Moreover, the effect also seems to have increased over time."

Researcher Richard Murphy, from the London School of Economics, said: "You would expect family background to have a high impact on earnings and it does".

But he said qualifications were very important and that if someone at a state school achieved the same exam results as someone at a private school, they should earn the same amount, the research suggested.

But when the researchers "controlled" for qualifications - removing their influence from the calculations - they isolated an earnings benefit due to attendance at a private school.

Private schools do indeed provide benefits for some individuals above and beyond those that accrue through qualifications and access to good universities

This benefit, they said, was felt most by those who went on to the highest paid jobs, but did not have an impact on the lowest paid groups.

The report said: "Private schools do indeed provide benefits for some individuals above and beyond those that accrue through qualifications and access to good universities.

"Whether these benefits come through 'old boy networks', 'old girl networks', through superior careers advice systems, or through unmeasured broad competences that are not captured by formal qualifications, we cannot say.

"But, apparently, it is only those in the top half of the spectrum of earning ability that benefit substantially in this way.

"These are the people of naturally high ability, or who have gained entry into high-quality schools.

"For those in the middle of the spectrum, the extra benefits are much smaller, though still significant; for those at the bottom they are non-existent."

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