Sure, it’s nice to have a graduate degree from Yale, but a new study finds that attending an elite undergraduate institution counts for an awful lot when it comes to lifelong earnings.
A researcher at the Vanderbilt University Law School found that people with advanced degrees from elite schools and undergraduate diplomas from less-selective institutions earn less than people who attended elite schools for both their graduate and undergraduate degrees.
The results hold up across a broad swath of graduate programs, from law degrees to M.B.A.s. And those who attended less elite undergraduate institutions are unlikely to ever close the salary gap, according to the study.
Joni Hersch of Vanderbilt Law School said the survey results came as somewhat of a surprise, but suggests that it’s not really undergraduate education driving the pay disparity, but instead the social status of graduates of elite colleges.
The parents of students at elite colleges tend to be better-educated than the parents of those at less competitive schools, Hersch said; the children of educated parents tend to have more early networking opportunities and understand certain social cues.
“It’s the vacations you can talk about, the small talk you can make, what wine you order in restaurants” that could make the difference in a hiring manager’s decision, said Hersch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida.