Post-Secondary Graduate Earnings: How Much is the Class of 2010 Making?
Updated Earnings for the Post-Secondary Graduate Cohort of 2010
Table of Contents
In January 2020, the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) and Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI) published a joint report on the early-career earnings of Canadian post-secondary education (PSE) graduates in 2010 (see Box 1).
This follow-up report follows the methodology presented in Finnie et al., 2019 and updates the data to include additional year of earnings information for the 2010 cohort of graduates. The data now covers eight years of post-graduate earnings, from 2011 to 2018.
Findings indicate that although college and university graduate earnings continue to rise each year, the greatest growth occurred early on, and earnings growth has slowed in subsequent years. The updated data also show the earnings gap between women and men widening over time, while the gap between international and Canadian students narrows.
We have also updated our Post-secondary Graduate Earnings Dashboard with two new graduate cohorts (2015 and 2016) and three more years of earnings after graduation (2016, 2017 and 2018).
In this report, we focus on the 2010 cohort of graduates, who have the longest period of earnings observed after completing their studies.
For the details on our analytical approach, see section 3.0 of our previous report.
Box 1: Background
In our previous joint report with the Education Policy Research Initiative and in other related products, we leveraged the Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform, which allowed us to study all college and university graduates of Canadian publicly funded post-secondary education institutions from 2010 to 2014 using anonymized data from the Post-secondary Student Information System.
The joint report focused on 2010 graduates whose annual employment earnings were derived from linked T1 Family File tax files. At the time, tax data were available for five consecutive years, up to 2015. The analysis was presented by credential and then by field of study within each credential as well as by gender and international student status.
As with all data sources, the platform has its limitations. It does not contain information about specific occupation or job characteristics, hours and weeks worked, or comparisons with groups of individuals who have not taken post-secondary education or training. Nor does it contain enough information to calculate the monetary rate of return for education.
Earnings growth in first five years post-graduation is high, but slows over time
Our previous report noted that although earnings vary by credential, average earnings for 2010 post-secondary graduates grew from $42,800 to $59,100 in the first five years after graduation (2011 to 2015), an increase of 8.4% per year (38% in total). During that same period, Canadians in the same general age group (22 to 28 years in 2010) with and without post-secondary education experienced average earnings growth of 5.6% per year (24% in total).
During the following three years (2016 to 2018), the earnings of 2010 post-secondary graduates continued to grow, but at a slower pace (see appendix figure), reaching $66,200 in 2018.
Overall, between 2011 and 2018, post-secondary education graduates’ earnings increased by an average of 6.4% per year—an increase of almost 55% over eight years.
As figure 1 shows, one to eight years after graduation, graduates with professional degrees saw their earnings grow the most, with an increase of 65% in total ($68,300 to $113,000), followed by those with bachelor’s degrees, who saw an increase of 64% ($40,800 to $66,900). Graduates with doctoral degrees experienced a 60% increase ($59,900 to $95,600). Those with college-level diplomas saw their earnings increase by 50% ($34,400 to $51,400), while those with college-level certificates and master’s degrees saw a 40% rise ($35,600 to $49,900 and $64,900 to $90,800 respectively).
The graduates who saw the highest average growth in earnings between years five and eight were those who held doctoral degrees. They experienced an increase of 16%. Graduates holding college-level certificates saw the lowest average growth, at 6%.
Figure 1: Earnings continue to grow eight years after graduation. Professional degree graduates experienced the most significant growth, while master's degree graduates had the least growth
The gender earnings gap continues to widen
In a 2020 labour market insight report, we noted that overall, female post-secondary education graduates earn substantially less than their male counterparts, starting with a 12% gap within a year of graduation.
This earnings gap increases steadily, reaching 25% within five years. The latest data reveal that this trend continues over time, reaching a difference in average earnings of 30% ($24,100) within eight years (Figure 2).
Figure 2: The earnings gap between women and men increases every year after graduation, even when adjusting for differences in the share of graduates by field of study and credential
Note: The earnings gap (shown by the purple line) is calculated as women’s earnings adjusted for male representation minus men’s earnings divided by men’s earnings. Women’s earnings adjusted for representation are calculated by taking the weighted average of female earnings and using male shares across all fields of study and credential combinations.
Given the lack of information about occupation or job characteristics, hours and weeks worked and other dimensions, we are not able to fully explore the drivers of the earnings gap between genders or between Canadian and international graduates.
For more information on how to interpret these differentials, please see Box 2 on page 49 of our previous EPRI-LMIC report.
It is worth noting that part of this earnings gap stems from the credentials and fields of study that women or men are more likely to pursue.
For example, men represent the majority of bachelor’s graduates (82%) in fields associated with relatively high earnings such as architecture, engineering and related technologies (fields with average earnings of $94,400 eight years out).
Women are more likely than men to obtain a bachelor’s degree in education (75%), which tends to be associated with lower earnings (with average earnings of $52,600 eight years out).
To control for this reality, we calculated a hypothetical earnings scenario that assumes women enroll in the same fields of study at the same rate as men (see purple line in Figure 2).
Controlling for this “sorting” across credentials and fields of study narrows the observed earnings gap by about $3,000 per year. Despite this, the earnings gap in this hypothetical scenario remains substantial and the trend unchanged: the gap between men and women widens every year after graduation both across and within different fields of study.
Figure 3 also presents the gender earnings gap across all 6 credentials for all fields of study together. Eight years out, the largest earnings gap between men and women is among master’s degree graduates, while the smallest gap is between doctoral degree graduates.
Figure 3: The largest earnings gap between men and women is among master’s degree graduates, while the smallest gap is between doctoral degree graduates
Table 1 (below) digs down further, showing the field of study with the largest earnings gaps between men and women for each credential.
Women are overrepresented among college-level certificate and diploma graduates who studied education and among professional degree holders in health and related fields, yet they earn 46%, 40% and 30% less than what men earn, respectively.
Other fields of study with significant gender gaps for graduates with bachelor’s degrees include agriculture, natural resources and conservation, with an earnings gap of 33%. Among master’s and doctoral degree holders in business, management and public administration, the gap was 35% and 24%, respectively.
Table 1: Largest earnings gaps between men and women by credential and fields of study eight years after graduation
|Post-secondary education credential||Field of study||Female share||Men ($)||Women ($)||Difference ($)||Difference (%)|
|Master's degree||Business, management and public administration||49%||137,900||90,100||–47,800||–35%|
|Bachelor's degree||Agriculture, natural resources and conservation||50%||74,100||49,600||–24,500||–33%|
|Professional degree||Health and related fields||66%||129,100||91,000||–38,100||–30%|
|Doctoral degree||Business, management and public administration||46%||154,300||117,800||–36,500||–24%|
In some fields of study where women are overrepresented, female graduates earn substantially less than their male counterparts eight years after graduation.
Note: The earnings gaps shown in Table 1 are calculated as women’s earnings minus men’s earnings divided by men’s earnings.
International graduates are slowly catching up
In a previous Labour Market Insight Report, we also looked at the earnings differences between Canadian and international graduates who stayed in Canada after completing their studies.
We found that the earnings gap decreased over time, dropping from 21% one year after graduation to 9% five years out. By eight years out, the difference had shrunk to 7.2%, a difference of $4,800 annually (Figure 4).
Figure 4: The earnings gap between international and Canadian graduates decreases every year after graduation
Note: In Figure 4, the earnings gaps are calculated as international graduates’ earnings minus Canadian graduates’ earnings divided by Canadian graduates’ earnings.
Although there are sizable earnings gaps between international and Canadian graduates, overall these gaps are smaller than what is observed between men and women.
Eight years after graduation, international graduates holding college-level certificates earned more than their Canadian counterparts, on average (by 13%). The gap between all other credential holders ranges from 3.8% for doctoral degrees to 16.5% for master’s degrees, where international students earn less than Canadians (the gap for professional degree holders are not considered due to the lack of number of observations for international students).
Analyzed by field of study, international graduates with college-level diplomas experienced the following earnings gaps compared to their Canadian counterparts eight years after graduation:
- college-level diploma graduates who studied architecture, engineering and related technologies graduates experienced an earnings gap of 14%;
- bachelor’s degree graduates who studied business, management and public administration experienced a gap of 25%;
- master’s degree graduates who studied business, management and public administration experienced a gap of 34%; and
- doctoral degree graduates studying the physical and life sciences, and technologies experienced a gap of 18%.
Data by field of study are missing for college-level certificates and professional degrees due to sample size.
The way forward
We will continue to update our two related dashboards, one for post-secondary education graduates and one for trade certificate holders, to ensure these data are available to a wide range of stakeholders—from students to parents to policy-makers—and the wider Canadian public.
Our intent is to provide timely and relevant information to help Canadians make education and training decisions. As part of our joint project with the Future Skills Centre, we will upload these data into our open cloud-based data repository.
The ELMLP data provide invaluable information on, and insights into, the average annual earnings of graduates and certificate holders. They allow researchers and others to track earnings patterns following graduation and certification across several dimensions (for example, by gender, field of study, trade, and others). However, as noted previously, there are currently gaps in the data —especially with regard to hours worked and occupations held—that limit our ability to fully explain the differences in earnings patterns and trajectories. Some of these caveats will be addressed through future research, with the ongoing addition of new datasets and linkages.
This LMI Insight Report was prepared by Zoe Rosenbaum and Behnoush Amery.
We would like to thank EPRI for their efforts in leading the first report in 2019 and providing the Stata code for this report. We appreciate the feedback and constructive comments from Tracey Leesti and Sylvie Gauthier (Statistics Canada).
For more information about this report, please contact Behnoush Amery, senior economist, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tony Bonen, director of research, data and analytics, at email@example.com.