Your qualifications can say more about you than simply how hard you worked at school.

They can reveal whether you are likely to smoke cigarettes or recycle your rubbish; tell how much you earn, and whether you are satisfied with life.

According to a new Education Ministry report, highly educated people are more likely to volunteer, recycle and have a higher tolerance of immigrants than those who don't have tertiary qualifications.

They also feel healthier, are slightly more inclined to vote and - depending on the level of their qualification - have an overall satisfaction with life that is higher than their less-educated counterparts.

While it is generally accepted that qualifications can affect income levels between the classes, the report also revealed the level of qualification a person achieved made a big difference in other life areas.

Secondary students who completed the last two years of high school often had much better outcomes than others.

The report found adults without any qualifications faced significant disadvantages, even compared to those who held only an entry-level qualification such as NCEA level one.

The unqualified adult was 19 per cent less likely to be employed, 25 per cent less likely to have a good or very good economic standard of living, 23 per cent less likely to have very good or excellent health and nearly 30 per cent less likely to rate their standard of living as high.

They were also 16 per cent less likely to volunteer than their level one educated counterpart, 12 per cent more likely to smoke and 16 per cent less likely to like the idea of immigrants coming to New Zealand.

People with a bachelor degree earn nearly 30 per cent more than people holding only upper high school qualifications.

They are also 7 per cent more likely to be employed, nearly 20 per cent more likely to rate their standard of living highly, 18 per cent more likely to volunteer and 10 per cent more likely to recycle.

However, having a higher income doesn't necessarily make people happier. Adults with degrees had the same overall life satisfaction, mental health and likelihood to vote as those with upper secondary education.

A GOOD EDUCATION
The positives

* Higher incomes and rates of employment.
* Positively affects how healthy you think you are.
* Less likely to smoke, or feel depressed.
* More tolerant of immigrants and different values, lifestyles and ethnicities.
* More likely to volunteer, vote and recycle.
* Greater overall life satisfaction.

Does not affect
* Overall mental health.
* Job satisfaction.
* National identity.
* Level of sociability.
* Your level of conservation mindedness.
* Being a victim of crime or in a traffic accident.