Press release: Maths A-level leads to higher earnings for men

27 June 2006

Men who have an A-level in mathematics are more likely to earn higher wages than their male peers who have A-levels in other subjects.

Based on data collected by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education, researchers examined a sample of men born in one week in 1958. They found that, at age 33, men who had an A-level in mathematics earned between 10 and 14 per cent more than similarly educated students without a maths A-level.

Dr Anna Vignoles, who carried out the research, says: “This finding suggests that students with high-level mathematical skills are in particular demand in today’s labour market.

“The skills a student learns in this subject, such as logical thinking, problem solving and statistical analyses, match closely to the skills required in the workplace. The skills associated with other A-level subjects – even subjects generally considered harder than maths, such as physics or chemistry – simply do not have the same impact on earnings.

“More students should be encouraged to study for A-level maths.”

Further research carried out by Dr Vignoles and Professor Peter Dolton in this area revealed that employers are not willing to pay premium wages to those who have pursued a broad range of subjects at A-level.

Dr Vignoles says: “In the light of the most recent reforms to the 16 to 19 curriculum, which encourage students to study a broader range of subjects, this finding is rather worrying. Our research would indicate that the debate about the excessive over-specialisation at age 16 in the UK is somewhat misplaced.”

The research is based on data from the 1958 National Child Development Study, which is managed by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education.


For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Anna Vignoles, Institute of Education, 020 7612 6879,

Jessica Henniker-Major, Marketing and Communications Manager, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, 020 7612 6861,

Jane Elliott, Research Director, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, 020 7612 6395,

Notes for editors:

This press release is based on research findings in the CLS Briefing Paper, “Returns to education”, published in June 2006 (

The Centre for Longitudinal Studies is an ESRC Resource Centre, based at the Institute of Education, University of London. CLS houses three of Britain’s birth cohort studies: the 1958 National Child Development Study; the 1970 British Cohort Study; and the Millennium Cohort Study. Each of the three studies involves multiple surveys of large numbers of individuals from birth and throughout their lives. Members of the 1958 National Child Development Study have been followed-up at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42 and 46. The next survey will take place in 2008.

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London, specialising in teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas of social science and professional practice.

Dr Anna Vignoles is Reader in the Economics of Education at the Institute of Education.

If you would like receive future press releases based on findings from the cohort studies, please register to join the CLS mailing list at

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