Degrees make students middle class

March 10, 2000

Graduates from lower socioeconomic groups develop middle class tendencies if they successfully complete higher education, a study has found.

The work compared the characteristics of graduates and non-graduates from the same socio-economic background.

"Both psychological health and physical health appear to be stronger in graduates than in others. There is also less vulnerability to accidents and assaults," said John Bynner of the Institute of Education in London, who conducted the study with Muriel Egerton.

"Graduates are also less likely to have children with educational problems. Citizenship - in the sense of memberships of political parties, participation in local community activities and voting in elections - are all more common among graduates, as are 'democratic' values identified with gender and race equality, and trust in the political system," he added.

The study was presented to ministers and special advisers at 10 Downing Street earlier this year.

It was based on 17,000 people who were born in Britain in March 1958. The group was surveyed at the age of 33, and 10 per cent completed another survey at the age of 37. Account was taken of the effects of father's occupational class, mother's education and other variables.

Previous research has shown that graduates earn more than non-graduates but a demonstration of the social benefits of degrees is more rare.

"The analysis provides convincing evidence that higher education does produce social as well as private economic benefits to individuals," said Dr Bynner.

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