Skip to content

Journal Article

Explaining patterns in the school-to-work transition: an analysis using optimal matching


Publication date

Dec 2014


This paper studies the school to work transition in the UK with the aim of achieving a richer understanding of individuals’ trajectories in the five years after reaching school leaving age. By applying the technique of ‘optimal matching’ on data from 1991 to 2008, we group individuals’ trajectories post-16, and identify a small number of distinct transition patterns. Our results suggest that while 9 out of 10 young people have generally positive experiences post-16, the remaining individuals exhibit a variety of histories that might warrant policy attention. We assess the extent to which characteristics at age 16 can predict which type of trajectory a young person will follow. Our analysis shows that, despite the apparent heterogeneity, virtually all at-risk trajectories are associated with a relatively small set of key ‘risk factors’: early pregnancy; low educational attainment and self-confidence; and disadvantaged family background. These characteristics are known to be strongly correlated across individuals and raise concerns about the degree of socio-economic polarisation in the transition from school to work.

Published in

Advances in Life Course Research

Volume and page numbers

22 , 1 -14





Young People, Life Course Analysis, and Social Stratification


University of Essex, Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to University of Essex registered users* -


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