Place, space and imagined futures : how young people's occupational aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in -PhD thesis-

Publication type

Thesis

Author

Samuel William Baars

Publication date

Summary

During the course of the last decade successive governments in the UK
have placed young people’s aspirations at the core of their attempts to
address poor outcomes within the education system and the labour market.
An area-based approach to policy has come to the fore which links ‘low
aspirations’ with particular community- and neighbourhood-level factors,
in particular area-level deprivation. This area-based focus on the
determinants of aspirations has faced intensifying critique from the
academic research base. Responding to this policy and research debate,
this thesis examines whether, and how, young people’s occupational
aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in. The thesis is based on
a mixed methods research design and has two sections: an extensive
phase and an intensive phase. The extensive phase of the research
consists of logistic regression analysis of data from the Understanding
Society Youth Questionnaire, and considers whether the types of
occupations young people aspire to vary between different types of area.
The intensive phase of the research consists of phenomenographic
analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted with young people in a
deprived, outer-urban neighbourhood in Manchester, and considers how
young people’s subjective orientations towards the area they live in
produce different forms of aspiration. The thesis finds compelling
evidence that young people’s occupational aspirations are shaped by the
areas they live in, but does not corroborate the claim at the core of
current government policy, that aspirations are lower in more deprived
areas. The extensive phase of the research instead identifies area type,
rather than deprivation, as the primary area-level factor shaping young
people’s aspirations, with young people from particular inner city area
types almost five times as likely as their peers from deprived
outer-urban areas to aspire to ‘higher’ professional, managerial and
technical occupations. Meanwhile, the intensive phase of the research
finds evidence that experiences of neighbourhood and family life in an
area of concentrated deprivation can lead young people to adopt
particular forms of aspiration that require lower levels of skill and
further training, but on closer examination of the motivations for these
forms of aspiration, finds little evidence that these aspirations are
straightforwardly ‘low’. Above all, the research demonstrates that young
people produce multiple different senses of place, and myriad forms of
aspiration, from within the same deprived spatial context: they do not
simply reproduce what they see around them when imagining their futures.
While there is compelling evidence that young people’s occupational
aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in, these area effects
demand more nuanced research alongside policy approaches that are more
receptive to young people’s constructions of place.

Subjects

Area Effects, Urban Sociology, Young People and Labour Market

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