We would rather expect the children with degrees of people with degrees to earn more than the children with degrees of people without degrees


A finding that people who have degrees, and who are the children of people who had degrees, earn more than people with degrees but who are the children of people without degrees, seems to be worrying some people. We rather think that it's a likely, obvious even, outcome of how the country has developed over the decades.

British men earn more if they have a parent who went to university, a study has found.

In contrast, men born to lowly educated parents earn 20 per cent less that those with the same qualifications but from a better background.

Researchers at the Institute of Education, part of the University of London, said it proved the wage inequality could be transmitted from one generation to the next.

They studied the salaries and backgrounds of 40,000 men between 25 and 59 across 24 countries, including Britain.

Think through what happened to higher education in the past. From 1950 to 1980 or so it really was only the bright (some 10% of the age cohort) and the rich who went to university. The poor and bright could indeed get there through the grammar school system. After that the floodgates were opened and we now have some 50% of the age cohort going into higher education. We might not immediately think that that should imply a wage premium to those in the current workforce as a result of their parents having a university education but look again. We do know that inheritance is inheritable (it couldn't have risen up out of the primordial slime it it were not) and it's really not a surprise to anyone at all that in the UK wealth and social status are in part also inheritable.

So what we're seeing is that the children of the rich and or bright have higher incomes than the children of the not rich and not bright. And put that way it's not really all that surprising, is it? Whether we want it to be this way is entirely another matter, but it's not actually surprising.