Cross-cohort study sheds light on the move from school to work during economic recession

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The chances of disadvantaged 18-year-olds not being in education, employment or training (NEET) was higher during the most recent economic recession than in the 1980s, according to a new cross-cohort study.

Researchers at the Institute of Education (IOE) compared data from the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) – whose members turned 18 at the peak of economic hardship in the 1980s – with data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which follows a cohort born in 1989-90 and who turned 18 at the start of the most recent recession. They found that seven per cent of those born in 1970 were NEET at age 18, compared to 16 per cent of the younger cohort.

In both cohorts, those who became NEET were from the most disadvantaged families. However, the impact of individual risk factors has changed. For those born in 1970, growing up in social housing increased the likelihood of being NEET at 18 by 40 per cent. For the younger cohort, this jumped dramatically to 90 per cent.

The impact of having parents with no qualifications was a significant risk for both cohorts, but for BCS70 members, it also meant being more likely to be in employment than education. Parental unemployment and low social class were also significant risks for both cohorts.

Certain factors protected disadvantaged young people from becoming NEET, including their own motivations, cognitive ability and part-time employment at age 16. However far fewer at-risk young people in LSYPE avoided becoming NEET than in the 1970 cohort, suggesting it became harder for them to ‘beat the odds’.

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Duckworth, K. and Schoon, I. (2012) Beating the Odds: Exploring the Impact of Social Risk on Young People’s School-to-Work Transitions during Recession in the UK . National Institute Economic Review, 222(1), R38-R51.