A-level maths and earning potential

This week, the Institute of Physics have published a report on gender imbalances in certain subjects. They look at 6 A-level subjects: the typically ‘male’ ones of maths, physics and economics, and the typically ‘female’ ones of English, biology and psychology. In all six cases there are gender imbalances.

The fact that girls are less likely to do maths A-level is likely to have an impact on future earnings. In Alison Wolf’s completely brilliant book Does Education Matter?, she notes the following:

While having A-levels will make you better off, this is because of the general skills that any A-level programme imparts, or because continuing to A level is so closely related to skills displayed at O level/GCSE, or because A-levels are being used largely for screening. There is, however, one major and striking exception. Even after allowing for every other factor imaginable, people who took A-level mathematics earn substantially more – around ten percent more – than those who did not. To see what this means, imagine taking pairs of solicitors, pairs of store managers, or pairs of city bankers, in each case with the same numbers of A-levels at the same grades, the same degrees and the same degree class, but where only one of each pair took maths. The ones with a maths A level would earn on average about 10% more a year than the others.

The research this refers to is here.

Interestingly, Alison Wolf’s latest book is on women in the workplace. I’m very much looking forward to reading it over Christmas.


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