CLOSER Seminar: Using harmonised measures of income and earnings – Laura van der Erve, Alissa Goodman and Bozena Wielgoszewska ShareThis


This CLOSER Seminar will feature talks from Laura van der Erve, as well as Prof Alissa Goodman and Bozena Wielgoszewska.

About the CLOSER Seminars

The aim of this series is to highlight methodological innovations and expertise and in turn facilitate and encourage future collaborations and new research.


Laura van der Erve is a Research Economist at the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). She joined the IFS in 2016 and works in the Education and Skills sector. Laura’s current research focuses on higher education funding and the modelling of earnings dynamics.

Alissa Goodman is Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS). She leads the work of the Centre across all of its scientific and operational teams. She is also the Principal Investigator of the 1958 National Child Development Study. Alissa’s main research interests include inequality, poverty, and education policy.

Bozena Wielgoszewska is a Research Associate at CLS. She is currently working on the income and earnings harmonisation project. She is also completing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, having previously obtained MSc in Statistics from KU Leuven. Bozena’s research interests include mapping the changes in social and economic inequalities over time.


This session will be split into three talks; the first, to be given by Laura van der Erve, will detail her recent project creating a harmonised set of income measures from across the British birth cohort studies. The second and third talks will highlight two research projects that have each utilised this harmonised dataset. Abstracts for these talks are below.

The impact of higher education on the living standards of female graduates – Laura van der Erve

There have been many studies of the impact of higher education (HE) on the wages and earnings of graduates. However, for working women, the variation in wages only explains 30% of the variance in net family income. To understand the overall impact of HE on the living standards of female graduates, we explore the wider impact of HE. We exploit the rich cohort study data in the UK to show that, for women, acquiring HE qualifications increases net family income by around 20%. We find that this increase is driven by higher wages, more working hours and assortative mating, which drives higher partner earnings. We show that the impact on women’s own earnings is more important in their early 30s but the role of assortative mating becomes increasingly important at older ages. We compare two cohorts of women born 12 years apart and we show that the overall impact of HE on incomes has remained relatively unchanged. The impact on female labour supply has increased slightly, but this has been counteracted by a smaller wage effect. The role of assortative mating has become no less important. These results shed new light on the benefits for women of pursuing HE in the context of ever increasing participation rates.

What can the language used in essays written at age 11 tell us about children’s future social mobility? -Bozena Wielgoszewska and Alissa Goodman

In 1969, more than 10,000 11-year-olds taking part in the National Child Development Study wrote an essay imagining what their lives would be like by the time they were 25. In this research we use machine learning tools to extract linguistic features from these essays, and explore whether the language used in childhood can provide signals with respect to their future social mobility and propensity to performs ‘against the odds’. We build on previous research on intergeneration income persistence, resilience, and vulnerability. Our findings indicate that mentions of certain topics in childhood can add to the explanation of income in adulthood.

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