A new working paper from the Institute of Education investigates the impact of the UK's selective grammar school system on earnings inequality. Although the comprehensive system now dominates, the value of selective systems remains a policy issue.
The authors used data from the Understanding Society longitudinal panel study, which collected information from people aged 16+ in approximately 40,000 households in the UK beginning in 2009. They found that the wage distribution for individuals who grew up in selective schooling areas is quantitatively and statistically significantly more unequal, with higher earnings at the top and lower earnings at the lower end of the distribution.
The additional difference in earnings between the 90th and 10th percentiles in selective systems accounts for 14% of the total earnings gap, increasing to 18% when the authors controlled for a range of background and personal characteristics. The authors suggest that this inequality may be the result of grammar schools attracting the most effective teachers.
The raw mean and variance statistics for the selective versus non-selective areas showed that overall, average hourly earnings from 2009–2012 were very similar across the two groups (£8.61 versus £8.59).
Source: Selective Schooling Systems Increase Inequality (2014), Institute of Education, University of London.