Students from more wealthy backgrounds in Northern Ireland are around eight times more likely to have a degree than those from less privileged homes, according to a study.
In comparison, men and women in Sweden who have at least one university-educated parent are around four times more likely to be a graduate.
The analysis was carried out by the Institute of Education through the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
It also revealed that women in Northern Ireland who are the daughters of early school leavers earn around 11% less than those born to highly-educated parents, even if they have the same qualifications. In England, Northern Ireland, France, Japan and South Korea the direct effect of parental education is "substantial", researchers found.
It also emerged that men whose parents are university-educated are likely to earn more than those whose mothers and fathers do not hold a degree.
And that having a parent who went to university makes a difference to a man's earnings, even when his own qualifications are taken into account.
The Institute of Education analysed data on around 40,000 men aged 25 to 49.
It found that in the UK, men who were born to low educated parents - leaving education before going to university - earn around 20% less on average than those whose mothers and fathers are graduates, even when they themselves hold the same qualifications.
The researchers concluded that parents' level of education has a particularly strong effect on men's incomes in the UK, and some other countries.
The study also shows that in the UK, without taking into account a child's qualifications, the wage gap between those with parents who are highly-educated and those who are low-educated is around the 50% mark.
Researcher Dr John Jerrim said: "The UK may offer particularly high economic rewards for going to a 'good' university, but in other countries 'a degree is a degree'."