59 comments on “My word, assortative mating, really?

  1. But presumably fewer of them end up marrying in the first place, what with all those bright ambitious girls not wanting to marry down? Can’t find any hard numbers right now, but I’ve read that argument elsewhere.

  2. People who move in similar social circles often marry within those circles…

    Wow. What insight.

  3. “Their privately educated husbands earn an average of £35,900 a year, study said
    Earnings compare to the £25,900 average earned by their state-educated peers”

    That’s all? £280K spent and you gain £10K per annum before tax? After tax that’s what? £7K? Will you even get the money back over a working life?

  4. Bloke in Wiltshire – “That’s all? …. Will you even get the money back over a working life?”

    Come on. You can’t put a price on being buggered by the Head Prefect.

    (Says one of the few Comprehensive educated here….)

    The prices of British schools have been greatly increased because of Russian kleptocrats sending their children to the UK. So you can imagine what their schools are like.

  5. @BiW

    That’s a shockingly low delta.

    I’d be astonishingly fucked off if I was paying for my kids to go private and that was all they were walking away from. Does it only include salaried employment? Are the figures skewed by all those living on an allowance?

  6. Also- isn’t 36k a low wage to start with? Is this for first year out of uni or something?

  7. I wonder if half this outrage at the unlimited benefits of attending private schools is being pushed by the private schools themselves: I’ve always believed the benefits are massively, massively exaggerated. In my opinion, going to a decent university (not exclusively Oxbridge) and hanging around decent people between 19-23 is worth far more.

  8. Chuckle. I wish!

    No, £36K in the UK is a pretty good wage in absolute terms.

    I do have this sneaking suspicion that in general “average” wages are inflated. Not based on much, just a hunch.

    Dunno if factors like time spent unemployed and early retirement are counted.

  9. Do they actually get ‘married’?
    And what of the most vocal gay and lesbian etc. -what of they.

  10. @TimN

    Yep, same as they do for unis. Remember them telling us about all the employers that’d be falling over themselves to hire us at graduation and all that crap?

    I went to a red brick but at the end of my vocational science degree (so sciencey, but not something like pure physics) most of us didn’t have a decent job lined up.

    All worked out in the end, though. 🙂

  11. @Tim N:

    Agreed. Anecdata alert: Also choice of what to study is important. I did maths, hung out with other science students, we all worked (relatively) hard and didn’t go off the rails. Twenty years later almost all of my social circle from uni are in good stable jobs and good stable relationships.

  12. SMFS,

    “The prices of British schools have been greatly increased because of Russian kleptocrats sending their children to the UK. So you can imagine what their schools are like.”

    I don’t think it’s just that. I think there’s been a huge amount of 1st generation private schooling going on.

    You can see it in this article. It’s basically saying that if you send your daughter to private school, she can have the home life you dream of. But really, the daughter is going to have an 80% chance of getting that £7K, or about £5500 extra. And you’re going to spend £280K to get that. You could just put money in the bank instead.

    “I’d be astonishingly fucked off if I was paying for my kids to go private and that was all they were walking away from. ”

    The quality of school you send your kids to has a tiny percentage effect on life outcomes. Going to school matters, but best vs worst has a tiny effect. Nearly all of kids educational outcomes are about parents and kids. Our league tables don’t reflect parents picking up the slack from bad maths teachers, buying their kids extra maths games books from Amazon, spending time going over maths stuff and explaining it to them, paying tuition fees or any of that.

  13. I went to a red brick but at the end of my vocational science degree (so sciencey, but not something like pure physics) most of us didn’t have a decent job lined up.

    Ah, Mech Eng, University of Manchester, Class of 2000 all had jobs lined up before graduation. 😛 🙂

  14. @Tim Newman – by 2003 the glut of fresh engineering grad jobs had dried up, and they were all looking for people with 2-3 years experience for the same sort of money you lot walked into…

    Question was always “so how are we supposed to get that 2-3 years experience? Be born earlier?”.

    A lot of my lot ended up in finance, “management consultancy”, teaching and so on as a result (and we’re Oxford…)

  15. by 2003 the glut of fresh engineering grad jobs had dried up, and they were all looking for people with 2-3 years experience for the same sort of money you lot walked into

    That would be the year I emigrated. 🙂

  16. A lot of my lot ended up in finance, “management consultancy”

    Management consultancy seems reasonable. Employers may not want to risk employing you, but they may wish to pay you for your lack of experience in some other way.

  17. All the number seem a bit dubious to me. At what point in life are these average people earning these average wages?

    I think the benefits of public school vary: the network at the top end makes a massive difference, although in order for Daddy to afford Eton you’re pretty much there already.

    A good school education helps you get into a good university tho. Public school types are still over-represented at Russell Group and Oxbridge – despite years of affirmative action – are they not?

    From my friends’ experiences I would suggest the motivation is mainly not having ones little darlings run the risk of mixing with the enriching variety of London’s junior scumbags. And because if a state school is good enough to send your little ones to, then you can’t afford to live near it.

  18. But what is the value of experience in management consultancy?

    Negative, I would argue.

    You learn that anything – absolutely anything – can be done at twice the speed for half the resources.

    You then leave to another client, and don’t learn that twice speed for half resources grinds to a halt shortly after you left the first client.

  19. The average wages sound ball-park plausible. Obviously most commenters here are looking down on them as not get-out-of-bed-worthy*.

    And there are lots of private schools, most of which will only add a little value at one stage of life to the (on average) only slightly above average intake. That stage is getting into a slightly better university than without the private schooling, at which point the privately schooled are often brought down to size. The elite going to Eton to learn to be prime minister are only a tiny proportion of private schooling – so the average success of privately-schooled people is going to be only moderately better than the rest of us.

    *: More than a few, however, are looking up on them as “I’d-get-into-bed-with-anyone for that”.

  20. Only grammar school edumacated, but I would suggest that a large part of the value of a private school education comes from having to fork out the £££ for it.

    If a consumer is paying their own money, in general I would say they are far more likely to take an intense interest in getting value for that money (St Milton’s first way to spend money, in action). When a provider is relying on consumers choosing their product, they are more likely to take an intense interest in demonstrating value for that money.

    When applied to schooling, that is going to make it far more likely that a) shit teachers are fired pronto; and b) disruptive children are asked to behave or be expelled. Both will massively improve the education of the remaining pupils.

  21. I didn’t emigrate, though I did need to migrate internally.

    I also ended up in a career with pretty much nothing to do with my bachelor’s (probably not uncommon), as yeah, the grad jobs had dried up.

  22. @BiW

    I was privately educated for secondary.

    Yep, no shit teachers in the subjects that mattered.

    No disruptive kids ‘cos the school had no problems letting the folks paying know, and I reckon they expected to get their money’s worth.

    One thing I think was a (or indeed the) major benefit was the selection, in that you were put with folks of a similar capability and study ethic. Some variation, but no-one lazy, stupid or disruptive.

    It also meant that there were folks smarter in any given subject than me, who were then the best to explain new concepts I hadn’t quite grasped from the lesson. Was grammar school the same?

    (e.g. I got good grades in maths, but was never a natural at the more abstract stuff. The thought processes of someone that had just learned it were easier from me to learn from than from the teacher that had done it for yonks.)

  23. MC,

    “A good school education helps you get into a good university tho. Public school types are still over-represented at Russell Group and Oxbridge – despite years of affirmative action – are they not?”

    Does it? What’s the comparison like between parents with the means to send their kids to private schools and do, and parents with the means to send their kids to private schools and don’t?

    You have to factor out everything but the effect of the school to see a comparison. You can’t go comparing middle class kids in stable homes surrounded by literature and intellectual visits and opportunities with the bastard spawn of abusive chavs that go down the pub.

  24. I finished uni in 1990, and then spent three years working in Hong Kong. When I came back to the UK every job application was met with “but you’ve no experience of working in the UK”.

    I eventually got a pays-the-bills job in local government. After ten years of that I now get “but you’ve no experience in your skill sector”. I thought I was being told that the government and employers were falling over themselves to get people who’d had a career break to return to work, that 50-year-olds should be retraining and entering entry-level jobs and starting over again. So why do junior entry-level jobs demand experience?

  25. Was grammar school the same?

    My school was streamed, so yes pupil abilities for each lesson would have been fairly similar. The school was selective, so there was also the option to expel the disruptive pupils.

    And to be fair, I received an excellent education there.

  26. @BiG

    “The average wages sound ball-park plausible. Obviously most commenters here are looking down on them as not get-out-of-bed-worthy”

    That’s a touch uncharitable, mein herr.

    I think most people were expecting beneficiaries of expensive education to realise a greater return on the c 250k investment.

    I’m a state school boy (although, for some reason, people assume otherwise), and I went to a Russel Group uni after turning down a place at Corpus Christi- I always thought that I’d managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with that stunt.

    I’m surprised and relieved to find that I’m doing OK, at least according to the numbers quoted here.

    But that’s why I’m suspicious: after doing something so daft- why on Earth am i ahead of the game? That’s why I’m wondering if them numbers are right

  27. BiW(iltshire) – i have no proven numbers. Perhaps rich parents who don’t send their children to public school manage to get them into the best good state schools. As Blair did.

    One of my mates was thinking about moving to get his boys into the best state school in the area but decided it was no more expensive (assuming same size of house) and less bother to send them to public school.

    I went to public school, my sister didn’t. I don’t think she is radically less intelligent than me but she didn’t go to as good a uni nor does she earn anywhere near as much.

    Of course there are other factors to take into consideration and of course all the above is anecdata but I suspect you sent Twin 1 from middle class supportive household to Scumbag Comp and Twin 2 to The Local Public School, there would be a difference in educational achievement.

    I don’t have children but if I did, I would cheerfully work myself into an early grave to avoid them ending up at some shit feral comp.

  28. TBF, my folks spent nowhere near that amount on education, even adjusting for inflation. It was quite a long time ago.

    However…

    Did a quick look at my old school and based on my hazy memory of what the fees were, they’ve doubled in real terms. If I’d been there from the age of 4/5 at today’s prices, rather than starting at 11, I guess it wouldn’t be £250K but it would be getting some good way toward that. Blimey.

    With those numbers, I think I would’ve been better off getting the money and saving myself on the mortgage.

  29. £280K spent and you gain £10K per annum before tax?

    Remember to add in the £Xk looted by the government for the State education you aren’t using.

  30. The school is only a part of the equation and if as parents you don’t put the effort in, the result won’t be anywhere near as good whatever the school.

  31. @Rob

    Can you imagine the outcry if the government announced a tax concession for those who sent their kids to private school?

    To quote JuliaM “Popcorn time!”

  32. @ MC
    Multiple comments – I have said many times that the poor/middle-class boys who win scholarships to public schools account for a large part of the numbers of public schoolboys attending Oxbridge (being one of those I do notice that).
    Secondly – was Big Sister better at maths than me? but because she went to grammar school she didn’t get into Oxford? well, it was the interview, not the exam she failed – but I was *even worse* at interviews

  33. MC said:
    “One of my mates was thinking about moving to get his boys into the best state school in the area but decided it was no more expensive (assuming same size of house) and less bother to send them to public school.”

    That was the calculation my parents made; cheaper to pay the fees than the extra interest payments to move to the catchment area of a good school.

    I don’t know if that calculation still holds; as others have said, fees seem to have increased a lot since then, but so have house prices.

    I found it cheaper still to teach them after school to make up for the useless primary education, and so get them into grammar schools. I wonder how they do on the lifetime extra earnings?

  34. “I think most people were expecting beneficiaries of expensive education to realise a greater return on the c 250k investment.”

    What makes you think the parents of privately-edjmcated kids are economically rational actors? Or rather, on what timescale?

    The ROI is far more keep-umpanship with the Jones’s, than any thought beyond the grandkid generation.

    Most parents would give their lives for their kids without thinking twice. Giving up a six-figure sum so that they just beat their peers over lifetime earnings (and reproductive success) is a phenomenal ROI.

  35. MC,

    “BiW(iltshire) – i have no proven numbers. Perhaps rich parents who don’t send their children to public school manage to get them into the best good state schools. As Blair did.

    One of my mates was thinking about moving to get his boys into the best state school in the area but decided it was no more expensive (assuming same size of house) and less bother to send them to public school.”

    The trick is finding the best “value add” school. Not the school with the best results – the one that exceeds expectations with regards to the expectations after primary school. There’s a school near me in a well-off area that almost everyone seems to try and get their kids into. It has 2nd best results in the area. But it’s in the bottom 20% of schools in the UK for “value add”. It hugely underperforms with what it gets. Maybe as much as half a grade per subject per child.

    And nearly all of school performance is outside the school. Factor out social factors and the variation of school results is as little as 7%.

  36. “cheaper to pay the fees than the extra interest payments”

    Most unlikely today. There are mortgages at 0.99% – so if your school costs £12,000 a year, it’s only worth paying if your mortgage is over £1.2m. And that’s if you only put one child through the fee-paying system.

  37. You need to add the widespread misunderstanding of risk/probability, and the belief in specialness of oneself into the mix.

    Sending your kids to Deverell’s School for Girls (and GirlieBoys) rather than Causton Comprehensive (Streetfighting Academy) might marginally increase their chances of making QC, or cabinet minister, or Hogwarts Professor of Physiology, or working in the tea room for Golden Sacks, or whatever. But your average parent is going to believe that all the fortune accrues to their scion.

    People are most unrealistic in terms of their expectations of their offspring. Even more unrealistic than in their expectations of their spouses. She’ll be sexy forever, he’ll never sleep with a colleague. The sprogs will make QC or cabinet minister, or whatever.

    Some time ago I was asked by some pushy parents to advise a British teenager, hoping (for some godforsaken reason) to follow my accursed footsteps into the language industry (I regret that I failed to put her off). Mummy and daddy introduced her as the future Prime Minister.. Sure, it might happen. But it illustrates that the hubris of parents knows no bounds. Everyone believes they have given birth to the next Catherine Middleton. And then disappointment sets in. They fuck you up.

  38. If we were rational about kids we wouldn’t have them. The objective costs vastly exceed the benefits.

    As has been observed to be happening in the real world, especially with rational secular western types, just about now.

    It follows that we are not rational about our kids’ futures either. So please stop trying to apply rational economic balance-sheet income-and-expenditure accounting to what people do for their kids. There’s four billion years of urgin’ there, that no amount of conscious thought will overturn.

  39. “It follows that we are not rational about our kids’ futures either. So please stop trying to apply rational economic balance-sheet income-and-expenditure accounting to what people do for their kids. ”

    Fair point- mine got me thrown out of a stately home last week for pissing in their ornamental carp pond. I’m proud of his 3 year old brain for causing that much chaos in the twelve seconds when my back was turned.

    On the rational economics of education though: it’s not really about the kids though, is it? It’s reasonable to expect more than a 20% (or whatever) improvement in measurable outcomes when you are paying six figures for a service that is free via other providers.

  40. Dr Martin Stephen of Manchester Grammar School and St Paul’s fame once gave a speech. The number one reason his pupils did well, he said, was not money, or facilities, or good teachers, although as Head he had all that at his disposal and was grateful for it.
    It was aspirational parents.

  41. @BiG… If we were rational about kids we wouldn’t have them. The objective costs vastly exceed the benefits.

    Yup, I’ll go along with that – and as a consequence haven’t a dog in this fight. That said I’ve seven nephews and a niece, three of which were privately educated. While all eight are doing well – in good stable jobs and good stable relationships, I suspect the big bucks have gone to ‘the three’. Speaking purely as an outside observer, although their (quality) universities were a big plus, the expectations instilled at public school was probably the game changer (that and their aspirational parents). I also suspect the kids they attended public school with remain their closest friends and preferred network, rather than fellow students from university days.

  42. My experience of being privately educated followed by a Russel Group BSc

    Seven job offers before 1988 graduation:

    Public sector, BT & British Gas (job insurance) + CAP, Plessy, Racal and a Consultancy

    Went with the Consultancy – pay, car, private health, sports club membership, 24/7 access to office (trust), blah…

    First day met the other 11 new recruits – 3 were state educated. Of those 3: 2 were NI Grammar School educated, 1 GB comprehensive.

    Second job, another consultancy, second interview with female “…you were at xxx school, so was my brother…” Long chat about school, no interview.

    imho the most important benefits of private education are they instill self-confidence, ambition and a desire to win.

  43. Whenever anyone says ‘stable jobs’, I immediately think that they are talking about jockeys…

  44. I think it goes deeper than plain economics. Its a cultural thing. Of all the couples I know where one spouse went to a fee paying school and the spuse did not, only two couples are still married. It’s a social thing. Read the Sloan Ranger Handbook to understand it. You are either intensely comfortable with that sort of life or you think its all a bit silly.

  45. BiG – how do you know anything about the keepupmanship of millions of parents (over time)?

    What’s your gig, language wise? My daughters are (I’m told) very good linguists (top of the class in German and French and they love it) and want to work in it in some way – and this worries me because google translate etc. I’m hoping they’ll marry earls or tech billionaires.

  46. “Second job, another consultancy, second interview with female “…you were at xxx school, so was my brother…” Long chat about school, no interview.”

    I can beat that. My interview at Cambridge went as follows (the choice of college was made by my housemaster at school for reasons that became obvious at the interview):

    Q: Did you know [your physics teacher] was on the same staircase as me at this college?

    A: No, but let me say what a fine teacher he is.

    Q (from a second interviewer – this was a tough one): Well do you know my son, who I thin is in the year below you at [St Custards]?

    A: Yes, indeed, a fine young man. I have the pleasure of playing many sports with him.

    Q (switch back to the first interviewer in the good cop, bad cop routine): We see that you have done some rowing at school. As you are aware this college is very keen on rowing. Will you be continuing when you get here?

    A: I am afraid I haven’t decided yet.

  47. “Can you imagine the outcry if the government announced a tax concession for those who sent their kids to private school?”

    Yes, after which the policy will become wildly popular and impossible to reverse. The socialists in Sweden wanted to overturn the free school reforms put in place by the conservative coalition in the early nineties, but were never able to.

  48. I had an interview at, ahem, a government department, and the interviewer said: I recognised your name in the application, I worked with your uncle when he worked here. And I replied: yes, I was chatting with my Dad some years ago about when “a couple of gentlemen in smart suits” came around to my grandparents’ to check his background, and my Nanan spent the whole time making them cups of tea.

  49. Alex – “Of all the couples I know where one spouse went to a fee paying school and the spuse did not, only two couples are still married. It’s a social thing.”

    And thus we come in full circle to the beginning – one of the reasons people pay for good schools is to make sure they marry the right boy. Or girl. You don’t want her to bring home a tattooed drug dealer.

    I have always wondered why it is reasonable for people to pay so much money for a good house near a good state school, but it is unacceptable to pay the school directly. The school is generating those property values, but the school is not getting them. The people who used to own the houses are. Think how much better the school could be if they could keep the value they generate?

  50. Interested: My daughters are (I’m told) very good linguists (top of the class in German and French and they love it) and want to work in it in some way – and this worries me because google translate etc.

    Please don’t worry about Google Translate, language is infinitely subtle and no machine will ever replace a skilled flesh and blood linguist.

    I should encourage the young Miss Interesteds to pursue whatever it is that engages their intellect and enthusiasm and a good modern languages degree from a top university offers plenty of opportunity and furnishes an active and enquiring mind.

  51. Please don’t worry about Google Translate, language is infinitely subtle and no machine will ever replace a skilled flesh and blood linguist.

    While I agree, much the same thing was said (in a different context) about playing chess. Fluency in a foreign language is only a commercially useful skill if you’re planning to work there (or, like a friend of mine, work on phone support for non-English speakers).

    But 99% of business conversations are already in English and that trend isn’t going to change (although speaking Mandarin could be useful). There’s always the Diplomatic Service – but they tend to teach the local lingo and prefer to select on other skills.

    I’m not arguing against learning languages – it’s a pleasing intellectual accomplishment, and allows access to another culture. But I’m not sure how financially rewarding it’s likely to be.

  52. I’m not sure how much of those networking advantages still count these days. Jobs in the civil service aren’t nearly as desirable these days; jobs in academia (even at Oxbridge) involve decades spent on untenured short-term contracts and low pay, with the carrot of a proper job dangling in the distance.

    As per Pcar’s story, the NI grammar schools continue to turn out excellent students. In England I suspect it’s worth paying the extra for a house in a grammar school catchment area, if your kids are bright enough to get in.

    If your kids aren’t bright enough to go to grammar school, then (surprisingly) it probably is worth putting them through private school, for all the reasons mentioned by others.

  53. @Interested,

    Languages (at a high level, less so private schoolgirl French) are far more valuable as an additional skill to people doing other things than they are to translators hoping to earn the odd stale crust.

    I can only give the strongest possible health warning to any intention to pursue translation as a career on the basis (I assume, forgive me if wrong), of a monocultural life augmented by a bachelor’s degree in one or more foreign languages.

    While there are successful translators into English based in Europe, the current market for good-paying work is small, and you do not want to be in the bad-paying market. Guessing what that market will look like in 4 or more years is impossible, but it’s unlikely that translation clients are going to have an epiphany and start caring about quality.

  54. Andrew M,

    “I’m not sure how much of those networking advantages still count these days. Jobs in the civil service aren’t nearly as desirable these days; jobs in academia (even at Oxbridge) involve decades spent on untenured short-term contracts and low pay, with the carrot of a proper job dangling in the distance.”

    On top of that, there’s been a lot of work put in (e.g. HR departments) to stop “old school tie” appointments. There’s simply far more process in place to stop it. The only places you ever see that sort of thing are really small businesses and well, that’s like the owner hiring his son to do some temp work, which is his loss if the son is bad at the job.

  55. “I’m not sure how much of those networking advantages still count these days.”

    In work, probably not very much, but in your social life, going to a really top private school opens doors, particularly out in the sticks, where having been to Eton, Harrow or Winchester really does mean you get to go to all sorts of social occasions that might not otherwise be available. Or maybe I just know a lot of introverted snobs.

  56. @ Alex
    Of all the couples that *I* know where one went to a fee-paying school and one did not, all of them (except those widowed/widowered) are still married. Admittedly a small sample, but …

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.