Research shows clear ethnic differences

Pacheco, Meehan and Pushon

The Productivity Commission and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have published joint research that shows significant ethnic differences in enrolment, progression and completion in bachelor’s level study in New Zealand 

The Productivity Commission and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have published joint research that looks at the factors associated with undertaking bachelor’s degree study in New Zealand.

The paper Explaining ethnic disparities in bachelor’s qualifications: participation, retention and completion in New Zealand was published today. The research is a detailed, comparative analysis of the factors that contribute to ethnic disparities in bachelor’s qualifications in New Zealand.

The research uses newly linked administrative data to track a population of almost 200 000 individuals born between 1990 and 1994, who were enrolled in a New Zealand secondary school as 15 and 16 year olds. 

“We found significant ethnic differences in enrolment, progression and completion in bachelor’s level study in New Zealand. In the population group we studied, Maori were 24 percentage points less likely to participate in bachelor’s degrees than Europeans, and Pasifika 18 percentage points less likely.” says Dr Gail Pacheco, Professor of Economics at AUT and Director of the NZ Work Research Institute.

“While ethnic disparities are already well known, we were able to go one step further and look at a whole range of individual, school, and parental factors and examine how much they each contribute to explaining the ethnic gaps”

Three factors contribute the most to the lower levels of bachelor’s degree study among Māori and Pasifika – prior performance in school, socio economic status and parents’ educational attainment. The methodology allowed all three factors to be considered separately.

“By far the largest contributing factor is prior school performance.  Parental education and socio economic status were also significant but not nearly as important “Dr Pacheco says.
The research also shows that even after taking into account differences in prior academic performance, socioeconomic status and parental education levels, Māori still had lower rates of participation, retention and completion than would be expected. Adjusting for the same factors, Pasifika had lower rates of completion than would be expected.

The research was undertaken as part of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into New models of tertiary education due to be completed by the end of February.

Inquiry Director, Judy Kavanagh, says that while the research confirms what many in the education sector already know and are trying to address, it points to where interventions in the education system are needed.
“While prior achievement in the school system influences Māori and Pasifika participation in bachelor’s study, the tertiary system influences whether a student stays on to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“The Commission’s inquiry report will consider how new models of tertiary education can cater for diverse population groups with diverse needs and ultimately achieve better results for all students.” Judy Kavanagh says.


Notes for reporters

1. The research uses individual level data from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure. The IDI provides linked data from across eight datasets for the four population groups born between 1990 and 1994.

2. There were about 47,400 individuals in each group and five ethnic categories included – Māori (21%), Pasifika (8%), European (62%), Asian (7%) and Other (2%).

3. Participation, retention and completion were defined as follows:
• participation – you enrol before you are 20
• retention – you enrol in a second year of bachelor’s study
• completion – you complete a bachelor’s qualification within five years of first enrolling (limited to three year degrees)

4. The working paper is a joint AUT and Productivity Commission publication. The authors are Gail Pacheco, Lisa Meehan and Zoe Pushon

5. The Commission will be delivering the final report into tertiary education to Ministers soon.  More information about this inquiry is on the Commission’s website under New models of tertiary education.

For questions about the research paper, please contact AUT – Helen Twose 09 921 9567 or  021 272 657