Theme 1: Youth, Inter-generational Mobility, and Civic Values

Theme 1: Youth, Inter-generational Mobility, and Civic Values

Karen Evans and Ingrid Schoon
Other Team members: 
Chiara Rosazza Bondibene, Claire Callender, Richard Dorsett, Michela Franceschelli, Alison Fuller, Andy Green, David Guile, Bryony Hoskins, Germ Janmaat, Avril Keating, Pauline Leonard, Geoff Mason, Nicola Pensiero, Cinzia Rienza, Ingrid Schoon,
Martin Weale, and Rachel Wilde

About the Theme:

Projects in Theme 1 are exploring the extent to which social circumstances and socio-economic factors in the family of origin influence children's life chances into early adult life and provide a platform for future well-being. Adopting a mixed method and multi-dimensional approach in operationalising indicators of social disadvantage we move beyond previous studies that have focused mainly on class or income, providing a more comprehensive understanding of constellations of socio-economic risk and associated disadvantage.  Examining constellations of risks associated with worklessness, family support, marital dissolution, health and housing, and how these differ in times of social change, this interdisciplinary research offers social scientific originality and innovation as well as answers to questions about changing intergenerational dynamics that are very topical for UK policy.  

With reference to intergenerational transmissions, we are investigating what it is that is being transmitted and in what ways do different transition experiences provide a platform for well-being and civic engagement later in life. The evidence, based on large scale and national representative data as well as in-depth interviews and case studies will offer leverages that could be applied via policy to improve life chances, well-being and social inclusion.

Research Findings

A central topic of investigation has been the effect of the 2008 recession on the life chances and perceptions of young people. Evidence is provided from secondary analysis of existing data (such as the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), and the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS) as well as generating new qualitative and quantitative data.

Evidence from the CELS survey of civic learning, behaviours, and attitudes among young people in England highlighted the evolution of opportunities and values among young people, focusing on educational, employment and housing opportunities of young people making the transition to adulthood, and how changes in these opportunities affected young people’s civic engagement and civic values. Moreover, qualitative studies explored in more detail how the current climate is affecting young people’s values and aspirations, and how experiences and attitudes vary across regions and between different social sub-groups.

A book on Young People and the Great Recession will be published by Cambridge University Press (co-edited by Schoon and Bynner) and a special issue has already been published in the International Journal of Psychology. The findings, based on national and international longitudinal data, suggest that the recession played a significant but not principal influence on young people’s changing life course post-2007. Better to characterize it as a major economic shock that intensified the impact of pre-existing economic and social trends, associated with an prolongation of the transition from school to work while qualifications are gained, a delay in family formation and mounting problems in making the transition to the labour market, including the rise of insecure and poorly paid jobs, underemployment and repeated job churning. Moreover, there were age specific effects, pointing to potential sensitive periods for interventions and highlighting the transition to adulthood as a crucial developmental phase – especially regarding the formation of values and beliefs about society. While the recession had only a slight effect on the lives of adolescents, it impacted more strongly on those aged 18 to 25 years. Achievement orientation, trust in social institutions and civic engagement were lowered, especially among the most disadvantaged, yet psychological health and wellbeing of adolescents and young people have been only minimally affected.

In addition, findings from a 2015 survey of prospective undergraduates are compared with those from a previous study conducted in 2002 study. The evidence suggests that students’ attitudes to taking on student loan debt are more favourable in 2015 than in 2002. Yet, debt averse attitudes remain much stronger among lower-class students than among upper-class students, and more so than in 2002. However, lower-class students in 2015 did not have stronger debt averse attitudes than did middle-class students. Finally, debt averse attitudes seem more likely to deter planning for higher education among lower-class students compared with students from other social classes, and more so in 2015 than in 2002.

A qualitative study on the youth employability schemes offered by different regional economies across the UK suggests that these vary considerably in terms of the opportunities and outcomes they offer to young people. While some young people gain access to high quality training and a secure job as an outcome of their programme, many exit only to remain on the ringroads of un/employment: another part-time job or short term contract. Across the regions we investigated, two factors are key to this income. On the supply side, social class is key. On the demand side, whether the programme is offered ‘in-house’ or by a third sector agency is also critical. In the former, employers recognise that they profit from access to talent and can respond quickly to offer employment.  In the latter, in spite of the fact that employability programmes benefit from high quality staff and unwavering commitment, that they need to rely on a network of committed employers to offer good training and work experience presents intractable problems. Employers need to step up and into the youth employment agenda.

The Theme One projects are:

 -  Ingrid Schoon, Karen Evans, and Martin Weale  (Project Leaders), Richard Dorsett, Michela Franceschelli, Gabriella Melis, Cinzia Rienza, Anna Rosso

- Andy Green, Avril Keating (project leaders), Germ Janmaat, Bryony Hoskins, Michela Franceschelli, and Rachel Wilde

- Pauline Leonard (PI) and Rachel Wilde

– Claire Callender and Geoff Mason (Project Leaders)

Contact details: Professor Ingrid Schoon, , 020 7612 6238