Social differentiation in career decision-making processes

October 13, 2022

Oxford Review of Education

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The way in which young people’s post-school intentions and pathways reflect their social background has been the subject of a good deal of research. However, much less attention has been paid to social differentiation in the amount and kind of career guidance information received by young people and its role in reinforcing or ameliorating social differentiation in transitions. This article contributes by examining the extent to which sources of information and guidance activities vary by social background and school social mix and the consequences of this variation for intentions to go on to higher education. The paper draws on data from a large-scale longitudinal study of young people in Ireland, the Growing Up in Ireland study. It finds that young people from more advantaged backgrounds are much more reliant on their parents as a source of information and advice, reflecting access to insider knowledge of the educational system, and are more likely to pay for private guidance services. In contrast, young people from less advantaged backgrounds and those attending schools with a concentration of working-class students are more reliant on school-based sources of information, though these resources are insufficient to boost their chances of making the transition to higher education.