Economist: Attending university after adult secondary school increases annual salaries by almost SEK 75,000

Studying at university after gaining eligibility by attending adult secondary school has also benefitted older individuals with work experience. This may become even more advantageous due to the new so-called transition student finance program, according to researcher Linn Karlsson in a new SNS report.

SNS Research Brief 91. Returns to higher education after adult secondary education 36.1 KB PDF

In October, a new form of student finance was introduced referred to as the transition student finance program. The idea here is to help people who are already in the middle of their careers to engage in further education, the primary aim being to enable these individuals to gain a stronger position in the labor market. According to administrative data, however, they may also receive higher wages.

In the SNS report Returns to higher education after adult secondary education economist Linn Karlsson analyzes how wages and employment are affected by studying at university after having attended adult secondary school. Administrative data covering the period 1990–2015 here offer clear answers. At the end of the analyzed period, those who went on to university had an average annual salary that was almost SEK 75,000 higher before tax than those who started working immediately after attending adult secondary school. At the same time, the likelihood of getting employed was higher among those having studied at university.

“Most likely, it is now even more financially beneficial for people already working to attend university. As a result of the transition student finance program, more people will be able to start studying while at the same time experiencing less of a drop in income than previously. This also means that they are able to get a quicker return on their education than the people studied in my report,” says Linn Karlsson, who has a PhD in economics and works as an analyst at the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.

According to Karlsson, there are also other dimensions, apart from financial compensation when studying, that play an important role in facilitating transitioning between different jobs, occupations and careers. She calls on politicians to safeguard good conditions for further education at adult secondary schools and universities across Sweden. In her view, everything from poor internet access to long distances to universities may reduce people’s propensity to transition.

“Not only individuals but also society as a whole benefit from low-skilled individuals being able to study at adult secondary school and university. Hence, it makes sense to invest in good conditions for everyone to engage in further education a little bit later in life,” says Linn Karlsson.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of these initiatives, she also calls for coordination between employers and actors operating in the field of education. She also emphasizes that the supply of education should be adapted to the needs of the labor market.

about the report

The study analyzes 9,113 individuals having passed at least one course at adult secondary school in 1994. Of these, 941 individuals studied at least one semester at a university in the fall of 1996. The other 8,172 refrained from university studies and thus constitute the control group.

about the author

Linn Karlsson has a PhD in economics and works as an analyst at the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.