Studying science or maths at A level sends girls’ earnings soaring by a third, a new report reveals today (22 March 2015).
The landmark research shows that achieving 2 or more A levels in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects adds 7.8% to a man’s earnings, when compared to just gaining GCSE-level qualifications. But the returns for women are much higher, with earnings being boosted by 33.1%.
Since 2010 the government’s plan for education has included a focus on encouraging more young people, especially girls, to study STEM subjects. This has resulted in 10,000 more STEM A level entries for girls, with subjects like chemistry seeing as much as a 19% rise.
Using data tracking the lives of more than 13,000 individuals since 1970, researchers analysed the earnings associated with different levels of qualifications by the time these people reached the middle of their careers. The results showed that while studying STEM subjects benefits people across the board, women’s wages are disproportionately boosted by gaining qualifications in these subjects.
The analysis, led by consultancy firm London Economics, also shows that performance in maths tests at primary school is a significant indicator of future earnings - highlighting the importance of the government’s insistence on schools getting back to basics on reading, writing and maths from an early age.
It shows that girls who perform in the top 25% of maths tests at age 10 earn almost a quarter more than those scoring in the bottom 25% by the time these people reached the middle of their careers - even after taking future qualifications into account.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
More girls are studying maths and sciences than ever before and today’s landmark report shows this can benefit their earnings by as much as a third.
Encouraging more young people - especially girls - to study STEM subjects is a vital part of our plan for education and it has been vindicated by this in-depth research.
We also know that from English and history to physics and chemistry, more young people are now studying the valuable qualifications in both the arts and sciences that enable them to fulfil their potential.
STEM A level entries are up by as much as a fifth since 2010 - but we won’t stop here. We are investing millions to get more children studying these subjects by training an additional 17,500 teachers over the next 5 years and setting up expert maths hubs to replicate the success of top-performing Asian countries.
Today’s research comes after recent analysis showed that knuckling down and succeeding in school adds an average of £140,000 to a young person’s lifetime earnings, highlighting the vital role qualifications in both the arts and sciences play in future success.
The government’s plan for education has resulted in more girls studying STEM subjects at A level. This year’s results show that A level entries for girls have risen by 10,247 since 2010. Entries for girls have risen in:
- maths by 8%
- physics by 15%
- chemistry by 19%
- biology by 12%
The government has produced a comprehensive package of measures to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects. Measures include:
- training 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next 5 years over and above current levels, with schemes to attract more postgraduates, researchers and career-changers, and extensive retraining for non-specialist teachers
- backing the Your Life campaign which aims to ensure that young people have the maths and science skills that the economy needs
- setting higher standards for maths and science through reforming the national curriculum and academic and vocational qualifications
- recruiting more top graduates into teaching by providing bursaries and scholarships in mathematics and the sciences of up to £25,000
- supporting teachers with professional development programmes such as the Stimulating Physics Network and providing funding of £11 million for over 30 new maths hubs
Notes to editors
- View ‘The earnings and employment returns to A levels’, a report by London Economics for the Department for Education.