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Education – not social class – is the biggest factor in British pay gap

19 September 2018

5:51 PM

19 September 2018

5:51 PM

The National Centre for Social Research’s held an ‘The Class Ceiling’ yesterday where attendees included Sky’s Lewis Goodall. He tweeted afterwards that thanks to Sam Friedman, an LSE researcher, there is now ‘solid evidence for the class pay gap: Those from a working class background are paid £7,000 less for doing the same job as someone from a middle class home.’


Quite a claim, but how solid is the evidence? Last year, Friedman and others published a report (pdf) for the Social Mobility Commission saying that those from a working-class backgrounds earn on average £6,800 less than colleagues from professional and managerial backgrounds. This is, presumably, where the £7,000 figure comes from.

But they apart from this is partly explained by differences in education, work context and occupational segregation. When you compare people with the same education, occupation and level of experience, their class gap narrows to £2,240 – so 7pc less than someone from an upper class background. A third of the sum that was claimed in the tweet. By adding educational attainment alone the class pay gap is reduced by nearly half. Most of it is caused by a variety of factors such as gender, ethnicity and age – not to mention hours worked, health, job-relevant training, where the work is based, firm size and whether it is in a public or private sector.

Adjust for demography, education, health/training, type of job and the class gap narrows from £6,800 to £2,242


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