Accelerated School-to-Work Transition in Britain: Still True?

Alina Pelikh , University College London
Francisco Rowe, University of Liverpool

This paper investigates whether the British pattern of the transition to adulthood with an early transition from school to work still exists. We apply sequence analysis to combined life histories from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the Understanding Society study (UKHLS) to gain a holistic picture of how education and employment trajectories of young adults born between 1974 and 1990 in England and Wales differ by birth cohort, gender, and socio-economic background. Next, we investigate how various trajectories lead to inequalities in labour market outcomes in later life. Around half of young people in the sample follow the rapid school-to-work trajectories with around one third of young adults obtaining a higher education degree by age 26. The distinctive British early transition from school to work is still prevalent, although trajectories have become more complex and precarious, in particular among young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Yet, the decrease in the direct school-to-work trajectories among the youngest cohort was replaced by the prolonged stay in education and increase in part-time employment. The proportion of university graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds has increased among the youngest cohort yet remains disproportionally low. Consequently, the chances of being in professional and managerial occupations remain significantly lower among highly educated young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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 Presented in Session 111. Life Course: Transition to Adulthood