Women with first-class degree 'earn no extra money'
Women who get a first-class degree earn no more for their extra effort than those with a 2:1, a study suggests.
The Centre for Economic Performance researchers say men who obtain firsts see their wages boosted by about 6% - an average £1,780 a year.
But they cannot explain the gender gap.
They say a first can provide "a leg up the greasy career pole", but they warn any advantage can wear off if bosses work out their employee is "a bit of a duffer".
Overall, graduates with a first can expect to earn about 3% more than those with a 2:1, the study suggests.
But those with a 2:1 were found to earn 7% more than people with a 2:2.
Andy Feng and Georg Graetz, from the London School of Economics-based unit, analysed exam marks of 2,649 LSE undergraduates between 2005 and 2010 for their paper A Question of Degree: The Effects of Degree Class on Labour Market Outcomes.
They then fed in the results of the twice-yearly Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey to discover where the graduates were working in the first year after graduation.
To estimate the earnings of the graduates, they filtered in data from the Labour Force Survey, which provides hourly wages for each industry.
And to further isolate the impact of the degree classification itself on wage earnings they looked at 1,136 candidates who got marks just above and just below the threshold between a first and upper second.
The researchers stress the only difference between graduates with marks near the threshold between grades is the "luck" of getting "over the cliff for a first" or being "stuck with a 2:1".
They say: "Remember this is not a pay-off to anything you might have learned at university or even your natural brilliance that the degree just puts a stamp on.
"It is the pure fortune of being lucky enough to get a first rather than a 2:1.
"Of course, the bonus for a first or upper second may actually wear off over time as employers figure out you are really a bit of a duffer. Or it may be that it gives you a leg up the greasy career pole."
However, they say the difference in monetary gains between men and women "is a puzzle".
They suggest: "Perhaps men are more likely to ask for or be given a higher wage offer. We honestly don't know.
"Our study is probably the best evidence available that exam results matter, but there's a lot more work to be done in understanding what drives the gender split and figuring out if the differences in pay-offs by degree result eventually go away."