Private schooling and labour market outcomes

10 Jul 2018

Though a relative small part of the school sector, private schools have an important role in British society, and there are policy concerns about their negative effect on social mobility. Other studies show that individuals who have attended a private school go on to have higher levels of educational achievement, are more likely to secure a high-status occupation and also have higher wages. In this article we contribute new evidence on the magnitude of the wage premium, and address a puzzle found in previous studies: how to explain the direct pay premium whereby privately educated male workers have higher wages even than their similarly educated peers. It is commonly conjectured that the broader curriculum that private schools are able to deliver, coupled with the peer pressures of a partially segregated section of society, help to inculcate cultural capital, including some key ‘non-cognitive’ attributes. We focus here on leadership, organisational participation and an acceptance of hard work. We find that privately educated workers are in jobs that require significantly greater leadership skills, offer greater organisational participation and require greater work intensity. These associations are partially mediated by educational achievement. Collectively these factors contribute little, however, to explaining the direct pay premium. Rather, a more promising account arises from the finding that inclusion of a variable for industry reduces the private school premium to an insignificant amount, which is consistent with selective sorting of privately educated workers into high-paying industries.