Wojtek Tomaszewski, Francisco Perales, Ning Xiang, & Mattias Kubler
Research consistently shows that higher-education participation has positive impacts on individual outcomes. However, few studies explicitly consider differences in these impacts by socio-economic background (SEB), and those which do fail to examine graduate trajectories over the long run, non-labor outcomes and relative returns. We address these knowledge gaps by investigating the short- and long-term socio-economic trajectories of Australian university graduates from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds across multiple domains. We use high-quality longitudinal data from two sources: the Australian Longitudinal Census Dataset and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. Low-SEB graduates experienced short-term post-graduation disadvantage in employment and occupational status, but not wages. They also experienced lower job and financial security up to 5 years post-graduation. Despite this, low-SEB graduates benefited more from higher education in relative terms—that is, university education improves the situation of low-SEB individuals to a greater extent than it does for high-SEB individuals.