Skip to content

Journal Article

Occupational choice, socio-economic status and educational attainment: a study of the occupational choices and destinations of young people in the British Household Panel Survey


Publication date



The article considers young people's occupational choices at the age of 15 in relation to their educational attainment, the occupations of their parents and their actual occupations when they are in their early 20s. It uses data from the British Household Panel Survey over periods of between five and ten years. The young people in the survey are occupationally ambitious: many more aspire to professional, managerial and technical jobs than the likely availability of these occupations. In general ambitions and educational attainment and intentions are well aligned but there are also many instances of misalignment; either people wanting jobs which their educational attainments and intentions will not prepare them for, or people with less ambitious aspirations than their educational performance would justify. Children from more occupationally advantaged families are more ambitious, achieve better educationally and have better occupational outcomes than other children. However, where young people are both ambitious and educationally successful the occupational outcomes are as good for those from disadvantaged as advantaged families. In contrast, where young people are neither ambitious nor educationally successful, the outcomes for those from disadvantaged homes are very much poorer than for other young people. The article suggests that while choice is real it is also heavily constrained for many people. A possible educational implication of the study is that career interventions could be directed at under-ambitious but academically capable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Published in

Research Papers in Education


23 (3):243-268



Young People, Education, Labour Market, and Social Stratification


Originally 'Online Early' Jan.2008; not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only


Research home

Research home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest