The analysis – commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) – finds that family background has an important impact on graduates' future earnings, as well as subject and institution choice.
The findings were referred to in a speech today by the universities minister for England Sam Gyimah at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) conference.
Responding to the IFS report and comments from the minister, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "It is right to expect that students receive a high quality education and that all universities offer a high value experience.
"A university degree remains an excellent investment. On average, graduates continue to earn £10,000 per year more than the average non-graduate and are more likely to be in employment. When looking at graduate salaries, it is important also to take into account the regional differences and socio-economic inequalities that exist in society, that a university degree cannot fully address.
"It is important that we do not use graduate salaries as the single measure of value. Many universities specialise in fields such as the arts, the creative industries, nursing and public sector professions that, despite making an essential contribution to society and the economy, pay less on average.
"A priority must be to make sure that all students receive timely and accurate information about different university courses, to ensure that their experience matches their expectations. Universities are keen to work with government to enhance information for students."
The IFS research report – The relative labour market returns to different degrees – is available to download on the Department for Education website.
The latest official statistics on graduate employment and earnings the Graduate Labour Market Statistics showed that, in 2017, English-domiciled graduates and postgraduates had higher employment rates than non-graduates and the average, working age graduate earned £10,000 per year more than the average non-graduate. To see the Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2017 in full, please visit the Department for Education website