Adolescent Precursors of Pathways From School to Work


  • The Youth Development Study (YDS) is supported by a grant, “Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth” (Grant Number R01HD044138) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. The YDS was previously supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH42843). Jeremy Staff gratefully acknowledges support from a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in Population Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD054467). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. The authors would like to thank Scott Eliason and Ross Macmillan for methodological guidance, and Shannon Fleishman for her comments and research assistance.


Longitudinal data from the Youth Development Study are used to examine (1) how young people establish work with self-identified career potential and how these patterns are linked to educational attainments; and (2) how adolescent achievement orientations, experiences in school and work, and sociodemographic background distinguish youth who establish themselves in careers and those who flounder during this transition. Multilevel latent class models reveal four school-to-work pathways from ages 18–31: two groups that attain careers through postsecondary education (via bachelor's or associate's–vocational degrees) and two groups that do not (distinguished by attempting college). Multinomial logistic regression models demonstrate that academic orientations, socioeconomic background, and steady paid work during high school help adolescents avoid subsequent floundering during the school-to-work transition.