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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


New Research from Alessandra Faggian Examines How Students Who Study in Creative Disciplines Fare in the Labor Market

Oct. 22, 2012
How does the “creative class” fare in the long term in the labor market compared to their counterparts in more conventional occupations? AEDE Associate Professor Alessandra Faggian aims to answer this question in new research that she conducted with Maria Abreu and Philip McCann, both from the University of Groningen, and Roberta Comunian from the University of Kent, which was published in The Annals of Regional Science this month (Volume 49, Issue 2) in the article “’Life is short, art is long’: the persistent wage gap between Bohemian and non-Bohemian graduates”.
Defining the “creative class” as “Bohemian graduates (i.e., individuals with high human capital) who obtained a degree in a ‘Bohemian’ subject (creative arts, performing arts, design, mass communications, multimedia, software design and engineering, music recording and technology, architecture and landscape design)” the researchers used  longitudinal data collected by the Higher Education Statistical Agency in the United Kingdom to look at students who graduated from a UK higher education institution at the end of the 2002-2003 academic year to see how the careers of these students progressed after three and a half years in the workforce. Of importance, previous analysis had only been conducted comparing career progression for Bohemian and non-Bohemian students at six months after graduation, thus the researchers were interested in conducting a more thorough analysis to see longer-term statistics, which was the first of its kind for this field of study.
As noted in the journal article, the researchers’ interest in looking at workforce employment trends for the creative class from a longer-term perspective was due to the recognition that often creative careers follow a less conventional pattern and require a longer investment of time to build portfolios, networks and establish measures of success. The researchers were interested in building on earlier research regarding the previously observed salary gap between Bohemians and non-Bohemians at six months after graduation to learn whether or not the gap was still present for the sample group three years later.
Some important findings from the study include:
  • Among the group analyzed, there is an overall mismatch between occupations and qualifications as, at six months after graduation, only 33% of Bohemian graduates were employed in the creative industry, while three years later this figure only rose to 38% for this same group of students.
  • Bohemian graduates demonstrated negative self-selection for those employed in the non-creative industry; as a majority they were employed in lower-paying jobs in this sector compared to their non-Bohemian counterparts. As a result, they were worse off in the short and longer terms. The authors reflect, “The salary gap between non-Bohemian and Bohemian graduates is not just a short-term phenomenon. Three and half years after graduation, non-Bohemian graduates’ average salaries are still markedly higher than Bohemian graduates’ irrespective of the sector entered, with the gap being over 25% in noncreative occupations and around 18% in creative occupations.” 
  • The study also found that Bohemian graduates are less likely to land full-time employment, with less than half employed in full-time jobs six months after graduation. After three and a half years, this number only rose to 66.7% for Bohemians, compared to 77.02% for their non-Bohemian counterparts.
  • Of particular interest, the researchers found that women in both groups of graduates are affected negatively in the labor market and the wage gap only grows with time. They note, “Non-Bohemian female graduates start with a salary gap (relative to their male counterparts) of about 5.5% 6 months after graduation while the Bohemian salary gap is 4.5%. This gap does not close after an additional 3 years and in fact increases to 8.5% for both groups.”
Overall the authors reflect, “From the analysis above, it seems clear that 3 years do not make such a big difference in the relative salary or job security situation of Bohemian graduates compared to their non-Bohemian counterparts. In absolute terms, their salaries obviously rise as they gain experience in the labor market, but in relative terms, Bohemians are still at a disadvantage in comparison with non-Bohemians.”
“’Life is short, art is long’: the persistent wage gap between Bohemian and non-Bohemian graduates” can be accessed here.  

October 23, 2012