Friday, 22 October 2010

To study, or not to study

This paper is a bit involved (because it's a proper academic study) but it's worth reading. It explores whether getting a degree is economically worthwhile, especially when fees rise massively.

Ordinary Least Squares estimates show high average returns for women that does not differ by subject. For men, we find very large returns for Law, Economics and Management but not for other subjects – we even find small negative returns in Arts, Humanities and other Social Sciences. Quantile Regression estimates suggest negative returns for some subjects at the bottom of the distribution, or even at the median. Degree class has large effects in all subjects suggesting the possibility of large returns to effort. Postgraduate study has large effects, independently of first degree class. A large rise in tuition fees across all subjects has only a modest impact on relative rates of return suggesting that little substitution across subjects would occur. The strong message that comes out of this research is that even a large rise in tuition fees makes little difference to the quality of the investment – those subjects that offer high returns (LEM for men, and all subjects for women) continue to do so. And those subjects that do not (especially OSSAH for men) will continue to offer poor returns.

There's good news and bad news.

For men, it's increasingly less economically viable: definitely not for humanities, and probably not even if you choose a science subject. If you want to study English, History, Politics or anything like it, you should view it as a luxury purchase, rather than as an investment. Which implies that only rich kids will do humanities, and they won't be choosing The Hegemon…

For women it's still worthwhile taking a degree, for a bad reason: women without degrees are paid even more badly in comparison to men than women with degrees.

Isn't life grand?

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