Published: January 11, 2019


A new Life Course Centre Working Paper examines whether Australian graduates from low socio-economic backgrounds benefit from their university degree to the same extent as graduates from high socio-economic backgrounds.

The paper highlights the role of higher education in mitigating socio-economic inequalities in Australia, but also suggests that additional assistance may be needed to facilitate transitions into the labour market for graduates from low socio-economic backgrounds.

The Working Paper, authored by Wojtek Tomaszewski, Francisco Perales, Ning Xiang, and Matthias Kubler of The University of Queensland, utilises longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing.

The authors consider multiple indicators of health, wellbeing and labour market success, and examine both the short- and long-term effects of degree attainment.

Their paper finds that graduates from low socio-economic backgrounds earn similar wages as graduates from high socio-economic backgrounds at labour market entry. However, low socio-economic graduates are less likely to work in managerial or professional occupations, and report lower satisfaction with their job security and financial prosperity, although this disadvantage is no longer visible at five years after graduation.

The paper concludes that the relative returns to obtaining a university degree, compared to before completing a degree, are greater for graduates from low socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in relation to mental health outcomes.

You can read the full Working Paper here.