The educational and labour market expectations of adolescents and young adults

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Education
Department Name: Quantitative Social Science

Abstract

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Title The socio-economic gradient in teenagers' reading skills 
Description Interview on Institute for Fiscal Studies website 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2012 
 
Description This award was a (now obsolete) ESRC postdoctoral fellowship. It lasted for one year, and was intended to allow time for my PhD thesis to be converted into academic publications.

From this grant, I published three papers from my PhD. In the first paper, I found that university students in the UK tend to have unrealistic wage expectations; they overestimate their starting salary by (on average) 10 percent. However, students in specific subject areas (e.g. English, History) seems to be particularly unrealistic, overestimating their starting salary by (on average) around 20%.

In the second paper, I extend this analysis to the United States. In particular, I investigate how well 20 year olds in the US estimate their wages at age 30. I find that both students and young people who are working at age 20 overestimate their future wages. Indeed, the difference between expected and actual future wages is substantial, standing at around 50 percent. The study concludes that more needs to be done in order to help young people understand their likely future earnings if they are to make well-informed educational decisions.

The final paper investigates 15 year olds educational expectations across 32 countries. In particular, it uses PISA data to investigate the proportion of children who expect to obtain a university degree, and compares this to the proportion of the population who actually do. The study focuses upon the United States, and placing this country into an international comparative context. I find that 15 year olds in the United States vastly overestimate their chances of obtaining a university-level qualification, and that they are more unrealistic about their prospects than young people in other developed countries.
Exploitation Route My findings on wage expectations of students could be taken forward in a number of ways. First, more research should be done on the wages young people expect to earn under different possible scenarios (e.g. going to university versus not going to university). Young people' expectations of the returns to university could then be compared to what we know about actual financial returns. Second, there should be further methodological innovations in collecting such data, particularly in UK based surveys. In particular, more detailed questions on wage expectations are needed, capturing the amount of uncertainty young people have in their expectations.

In terms of cross-national comparisons of educational expectations, a limitation of my student is that it relied upon cross-sectional data. A significant way this area of research could be taken forward is to conduct a cross-national longitudinal study of the link between educational expectations and attainment. For instance, this would allow one to investigate the stability of young people's educational expectations, and if this differs across countries. Likewise, it would allow one to investigate whether expectations are a better predictor of attainment in some countries than others, and if this is linked to institutional features (e.g. school systems or labour market rigidity).
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description Socio-economic differences in children's reading skills
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Sutton Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2011 
End 06/2012
 
Description University access for socio-economically disadvantaged children : a comparison across Anglo-phone countries
Amount £8,000 (GBP)
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2012 
End 10/2013
 
Description Access to higher education across countries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation at Michigan State University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Children from disadvantaged backgrounds 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with Victoria Derbyshire, 29/06/2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Higher education access across anglophone countries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation to the Sutton Trust

Section not completed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Higher education access in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation at Seminar at the Institute of Education, University of London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Measuring socio-economic inequality using PISA data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation at GINI workshop WP4
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Socio-economic differences in higher education : how do we reduce the gaps? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation to the Access to Higher Education Summit
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Socioeconomic gradients in children's cognitive skills : are cross-country comparisons robust to who reports family background? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Workshop presentation at London School of Economics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description The socio-economic gradient in teenagers' literacy skills : how does England compare to other countries? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presented at seminar on 'Adolescence in the 21st century - Current debates in Finland and the UK'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description The socio-economic gradient in teenagers' reading skills : how does England compare to other countries? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This presentation was given at the launch of a special issue of Fiscal Studies on 29 June 2012.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description The unrealistic educational expectations of high school pupils : is America exceptional 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Seminar presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description The wage expectations of higher education students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Article in Pathways: The Pathways to Adulthood Newsletter, Issue 4 September 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.pathwaystoadulthood.org/docs/PATHWAYSNewsletterIssue4.pdf
 
Description University access for socio-economically disadvantaged children : a comparison across anglo-phone countries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation at International workshop on applied economics of education
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity