HILDA on education attainment and the graduate premium

16 July 2015


The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey is an Australian household-based panel study which began in 2001.  HILDA data, when weighted, describe the Australian population (excluding those not living in households).  The latest HILDA Report provides fascinating insights into Australian society and life.  To be really happy in Australia, it seems the best chance is to  be an unpartnered woman with kids.  You will need to live in a smallish town in Queensland and get to know the neighbours.  But, please, don’t smoke  and don’t drink any more than 42 glasses of wine a week.  With respect to education, the report revealed growing disparity between the prospects of male and female students, those with university qualifications and those without.




The road to happiness and health – click image to go to Fairfax video.


The report suggests that education has little effect on employment participation of men, be it in any (part-time or full-time) job. By contrast, employment participation of women — especially full-time employment participation—does appear to be significantly higher for the more highly educated. In particular, a diploma or higher educational qualification is associated with an approximate 10 percentage points or greater increase in the probability of full-time employment compared with maximum educational attainment of Year 11 and below. For neither men nor women is there a significant association between university grouping and employment participation.

Earnings of full-time employees are clearly more strongly related to level of educational attainment and university type. For example, compared with attainment of Year 11 and below, a master’s degree or doctorate increases earnings by 47.1% for men and 42.1% for women, a graduate diploma or certificate increases earnings by 44.5% for men and 34.8% for women, a bachelor’s degree increases earnings by 40.7% for men and 31.9% for women, and a diploma or advanced diploma increases earnings by 28.9% for men and 8.4% for women. A Certificate Level 3 or 4 is also associated with a 19.3% increase in earnings for men, but no significant increase in earnings for women, while completion of high school is associated with an 18.6% increase in earnings for men and a 14.5% increase in earnings for women.

The estimates also suggest there is an earnings premium attached to Australian Technology Network (ATN) and Innovation Research University (IRU) universities.  For example, there is an approximate 10% premium to obtaining the highest qualification from an ATN university as opposed to a Go8 university, and an approximate 15% premium to obtaining the highest qualification from an IRU university  as opposed to a Go8 university. No significant earnings differences are evident between Go8, Regional Universities Network (RUN) and overseas universities for men or women, but relative to the ‘other’ Australian universities, all three of these groups have an earnings premium of approximately 20% for men, and an earnings penalty of approximately 13% for women.

The report observes that “it is perhaps surprising that graduates of the Go8 universities do not have the highest (conditional) earnings, and indeed have significantly lower earnings than ATN, IRU and, for women, RUN universities”.  That certainly surprises the Group of 8 which said it is perplexed and disappointed that skewed results on graduate earnings using this data was accepted for publication in the latest HILDA Survey Statistical Report.Go8 ….because the results are so clearly anomalous with previous studies.”

Uni degree

Regardless of the institution, degrees still carry big income power, with a university qualification holder being able to expect to have their income boosted by up to 42% for men and 32% for women, highlighting the continuing inequality between the sexes, where  6% more women now obtain degrees than men, reflecting a “societal shift”, according to the report’s author Professor Wilkins.

The report also found that computer literacy was directly related to earnings, with those males who had high computer literacy earning up to 25% more than their less skilled counterparts. For women, low computer literacy meant a potential 12% deficit in earnings.

As to schools education,the published report doesn’t actually provide any data or commentary but the table below  (adapted from data published by Fairfax Media) shows that while satisfaction with government schools is on a par with Catholic and independent schools, government schools nevertheless lag considerably on the perception of school excellence and on aspiration for university level study.  Wilkins told Fairfax that parents and guardians on average report worse educational outcomes and prospects for boys, the notable exception being the experience of girls being bullied in high school.

Outcomes at school










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