Do graduates from private schools earn more?

In The Sunday Age yesterday, there was another article about private school students struggling at university. It was based on the numerous studies (I mention a couple here) which have found that, for a given ENTER score, kids from private schools, and also selective government schools where they have been examined, average slightly lower first-year university marks than kids who have been to government schools.

Though this finding has been repeated frequently enough for it to be regarded as a valid social science generalisation, it is also widely misunderstood as saying that private school students get lower grades at university. I haven’t seen that question specifically answered in research, but given that private school students have much higher median ENTERs that is unlikely to be the case. Though private school students are not as academically prepared as government school students who get the same grades as they do, disproportionately few government school students actually get those matching grades at the end of Year 12.

There is also the problem that the studies are all of first year students. It would not be surprising if the differences narrowed in subsequent years, as private school students adjust to the more self-directed study style at university and learn that university life doesn’t offer quite the same freedom compared to school at they might have first thought.

As an ACER study I blogged on in April found, private school students have a higher rate of actually completing university, though once starting ENTER scores are taken into account there are no significant differences betweens school sectors.

One issue we don’t know much about is the differences between government and private school students after university. I have been trying to do a little research on this using the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes.
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