How do education and career paths differ for people of different ethnic backgrounds?

People from some ethnic minority groups are more likely to go to university and end up in higher-paying jobs when they graduate, according to new research using Next Steps.

What we asked you

When we visited you at age 25, we asked you questions about your career and whether you went to university. We compared your responses to those from Child of the New Century (CNC), a similar study of young people born in the year 2000-01. At ages 7, 11 and 14, CNC study members were asked if they thought they’d go to university and what jobs they would like to have when they got older.

What the researchers found

The researchers first looked at the younger generation of study members, and how their educational and job aspirations had changed throughout childhood.

At age 14, black African, Indian and Bangladeshi boys thought they’d have, on average, an 80 per cent chance of going to university, while white and black Caribbean boys only gave themselves a 60 per cent chance. Bangladeshi, black African, Indian and Pakistani girls believed they had an 80 per cent chance of going to university, while white girls gave themselves a 70 per cent chance.

Researchers looked into what your predicted future wage was based on their dream careers. Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black African boys aspired to jobs with hourly wages of about £24, while white and Indian boys aimed for careers with an estimated average hourly wage of about £18.

Bangladeshi and black African girls aspired to roles with wages of £21 per hour, Indian and Pakistani girls aimed for jobs with wages of £20 an hour, black Caribbean girls aspired to roles with earnings of £19 per hour, and white girls aimed for jobs that paid £16 per hour.

The researchers then looked at the information you gave us, to see where people of different ethnicities ended up. For both men and women, about half of black African and Indian people had degrees by the age of 25. The proportion of study members from other ethnic backgrounds who had degrees was lower – ranging from about 21 per cent to 33 per cent.

Young Bangladeshi men with degrees were, on average, the highest earners at age 25, taking home almost £550 a week. White men with degrees typically earned £513 a week, but black Caribbean men with a degree received significantly lower wages – around £60 per week less than white men with a similar education.

Among women with degrees, Indian women received the highest wages, earning £502 a week. White women with degrees earned around £70 less than equally-qualified Indian women, and young Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean women with degrees took home between £35 and £90 per week less than their white counterparts.

Why this research is important

There’s no reason why ethnicity should affect whether or not you go to university, or whether you strive for top jobs. Nevertheless, there are still big differences in who ends up in higher education and in more lucrative careers. Research like this can help draw attention to these issues, so schools, universities and others can help young people find the path that best suits them, regardless of ethnicity.

Find out more about this research

This research was carried out by Prof Lucinda Platt at the London School of Economics in collaboration with the BBC. It is available on the BBC website.

The research was also covered by the Huffington Post.