Understanding New Zealand: Demographics of Education

Most people have a vague idea that education is for intelligent people who want to increase their human capital and how to leverage it more effectively, and that educated people more or less run everything. For these reasons, education correlates fairly closely with being part of the Establishment.

Many will be surprised to read that there are no significant positive correlations with being of European descent and having any of the university degrees. Two of them are even negative: the correlation between being of European descent and having a Bachelor’s degree is -0.03, and with having a Master’s degree it is -0.02.

The correlations between being of European descent and having an Honours degree or a doctorate were 0.16 and 0.22, respectively.

This is explainable by the fact that surprisingly few graduates in New Zealand were born here.

The correlation between being born in New Zealand and having a Bachelor’s degree was -0.61; with having an Honours degree it was -0.45; with having a Master’s degree it was -0.59 and with having a doctorate it was -0.32.

One can predict from this that the correlations between being Maori and having a university degree are significantly negative, and indeed they all are stronger than -0.40.

Because our immigration system makes it easier for people who have university degrees to come to New Zealand, we can see that the Pacific Islander and Asian populations – a large proportion of which were born overseas – are much better educated than most people might realise.

Pacific Islanders in New Zealand are much less likely than Kiwis of European descent to have an Honours or a doctorate degree, but the correlation between being a Pacific Islander and having a Bachelor’s degree is only -0.10, and with having a Master’s degree it is only -0.08.

Asians, for their part, are much, much more likely than the average Kiwi to have a university degree. The correlation between being Asian and having a university degree was 0.28 for a doctorate, 0.60 for a Master’s degree, 0.41 for an Honours degree and 0.64 for a Bachelor’s degree. All of these are significant.

The correlaton between being born in North East Asia and having a Bachelor’s degree was a very strong 0.72.

Looking at the correlations between belonging to certain income bands and having a certain educational level underlines the degree to which an education is the ticket to social advancement in New Zealand.

The correlations between having no academic qualifications and being in any of the income bands between $10-40K were all over 0.70. Having no academic qualifications also had correlations of 0.84 with being a regular tobacco smoker, 0.76 with being on the invalid’s benefit, 0.57 with being a single parent, 0.57 with being on the unemployment benefit and -0.68 with net median income.

So by a variety of measures, it’s clear that a person’s level of academic qualifications are generally a pretty good indicator of where they stand in socioeconomic terms.

There were already significant improvements in socioeconomic standing for Kiwis who only went as far as NZQA Level 3 or 4.

Having NZQA Level 3 or 4 as one’s highest academic qualification had correlations of -0.26 with being a regular tobacco smoker, -0.21 with being on the invalid’s benefit, -0.07 with being a single parent, 0.05 with being on the unemployment benefit and 0.12 with net personal income.

These are already vastly better statistics, and the step up from finishing high school to having a university degree is just as great as the step from having no academic qualifications to finishing high school.

Having an Honours degree as one’s highest academic qualification had correlations of -0.64 with being a regular tobacco smoker, -0.55 with being on the invalid’s benefit, -0.49 with being a single parent, -0.39 with being on the unemployment benefit and 0.72 with net personal income.

It’s evident, therefore, that a higher education is extremely strongly correlated with general well-being. The ultimate cause of this might well be natural intelligence, which is of course out of the scope of this study. However, in so far as education correlates with intelligence, we can make an educated guess at the habits of educated New Zealanders by looking at education.

Interestingly, the correlations between education levels and religion spanned the whole spectrum. Some religious traditions in New Zealand are exceptionally well eduated on average; others exceptionally poorly.

The best educated are the Buddhists and the Jews. The correlation between being Buddhist and having no qualifications was -0.72, with having NZQA Level 3 or 4 it was 0.43 and with having an Honours degree it was 0.52. The correlation between being Jewish and having no qualifications was -0.70, with having NZQA Level 3 or 4 it was 0.42 and with having an Honours degree it was 0.76.

Catholics are the next best educated religious demographic, which is a reflection of the large proportion of Catholics that were born overseas and had to get through the immigration system. The correlation between being Catholic and having no qualifications was -0.32, with having NZQA Level 3 and 4 it was 0.19 and with having an Honours degree it was 0.31.

Curiously, the next best educated demographic were of those who had no religious affiliation, and the bulk of these people were born in New Zealand. This might not surprise any readers who are materialist atheists, because this sort of person dominates the universities of this nation.

The correlation between having no religion and having no qualifications was -0.08, with having NZQA Level 3 and 4 it was 0.15 and with having an Honours degree it was 0.27. It may be that a fair proportion of these people were born into a religious family but then came to reject their faith after exposure to university culture.

The average New Zealander who identifies as a Christian has a significantly poorer education than the average New Zealander. The correlation between being a Christian and having no qualifications is 0.15, with having NZQA Level 3 and 4 it was -0.34 and with having an Honours degree it was -0.30. Probably this is a reflection of the fact that there are a fixed number of hours in the day to read books and so reading the Bible must necessarily come at the opportunity cost of reading non-fiction.

The most poorly educated, however, are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses – probably a reflection of the predatory and aggressive proselytising culture of these movements.

The correlation between being a Mormon and having no qualification was 0.40, with having NZQA Level 3 or 4 it was -0.04 and with having an Honours degree it was -0.40. The correlation between being a Jehovah’s Witness and having no qualification was 0.74, with having NZQA Level 3 or 4 it was -0.41 and with having an Honours degree it was -0.71.

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This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, due to be published by VJM Publishing this winter.

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