Recession’s impact on children: a generation missing out on social mobility chances

New research from the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social change (MISOC) has found that children today are directly affected by the impact of the recession when it comes to their attitudes to continuing education and training.

During periods of high unemployment, teenagers’ plans to remain at school after GCSEs were shaped by their parents’ education – not their income or whether they had a job. Children with parents who have few qualifications are far less likely to want to take A-levels and go to university or take vocational courses because they do not think they will get work afterwards. However, those from highly educated families are more likely to want to gain further qualifications.

Professor Mark Taylor and Tina Rampino looked at the educational attitudes and aspirations of 11-15-year-olds between 1994 and 2010, surveyed as part of the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society. As youth unemployment rose from 10% to 20%, the proportion of children with parents with positive attitudes to schooling who wish to stay in the sixth form goes up from 94% to 97% and the proportion who want to go to university increases from 84% to 86%, but it falls from 87% to 64% and from 78% to 46% respectively among children with parents who have negative attitudes.

The research reveals:

“that the positive impact of high unemployment on educational attitudes persists among children with highly educated parents and parents who themselves hold positive attitudes to education, but is less apparent among children with low educated parents and parents with less positive views towards education. This suggests that negative economic shocks exacerbate differences in educational aspirations and motivations by socioeconomic status, and are therefore likely to have longer-lasting impacts on social inequality and immobility.”

The research was presented at the MISOC event Growing up in Recession Britain, to an audience of policy makers, media and academics in London, alongside presentations from Jonathan Wadsworth, Professor of Economics at Royal Holloway, University of London who questioned whether the outcomes of this recession on the youth labour market are unprecedented, and Richard Dorsett, Director of Policy Evaluation at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, examining the importance of early labour market experiences in young people’s transitions into employment and illustrates how this can help the design of interventions aimed at improving young people’s employment prospects.

The full presentations are available to download.


Working Paper



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