Education Across the Island of Ireland: Examining Educational Outcomes, Earnings and Intergenerational Mobility

March 9, 2023

Irish Studies in International Affairs, Volume 34, Number 2, Analysing and Researching Ireland, North and South 2023, pp. 30-47.

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This paper builds on a study of educational differences across Ireland and Northern Ireland to explore the relationship between educational attainment, social background and wages. We find evidence of substantial wage premia across all qualification levels in Ireland relative to Northern Ireland, a pattern that is widespread, and not merely driven by higher returns to professional occupations or FDI employment. The mean wage gap was 27% in 2014 in favour of Ireland, and approximately 25% of this difference can be explained by lower levels of educational attainment in Northern Ireland. We find that levels of educational attainment (early school leaving) are substantially lower (higher) in Northern Ireland relative to Ireland. There is also evidence of differences in how the education level of parents affects offspring's attainment. We conclude that academic selection in Northern Ireland is likely to contribute to limiting the extent to which the educational system facilitates intergenerational educational mobility.