Originally I’d intended to use the extensive phase of the research, which uses data from the BHPS and Understanding Society Youth Questionnaires, to explore how young people’s occupational aspirations (the jobs they say they want to do in the future) are shaped by spatial characteristics of their area such as Index of Multiple Deprivation score and Output Area Classification type. As I said in my last post, however, I’ve realised that as well as the role of space I may be able to explore place – or at least, some crude proxies for place – in the extensive phase, using survey items which appeal to the opinions and understanding young people have of their local area. I’ve also now realised that I can use the extensive phase of the research to explore the relationship between space (and place) and young people’s conceptions of their aspirations, as well as just the content of their aspirations.
The BHPS Youth Questionnaire asks young people what job they’d like to do when they leave school or finish their full-time education (apart from Waves 1-3 and Waves 9-11). This deals with the content of young people’s aspirations. Some waves also ask young people which aspects of a job they find important, or why it is that they aspire to do a particular job. This deals with their conception of their aspirations. Different waves handle young people’s conceptions of their aspirations in different ways, with different combinations of survey items. Waves 1-3, 9-11, 14-16 and 18 do not contain any survey items addressing conceptions of aspirations. Wave 4 asks young people to give their opinion of the importance of five aspects of a job: security; hours; brain involvement; pay, and worthwhileness. A further question then asks them to state which of these qualities is most important of all. Waves 5 and 6 ask the same questions but also ask young people to explain why they aspire to a particular job. Waves 7 and 8 ask only the latter.
Waves 12, 13 and 17 ask young people to give their opinion of the importance of six aspects of a job, with no further questions. For each item, the respondent is asked to state whether it is ‘very important’, ‘important’, ‘not important’, or ‘unimportant’. Two of the six aspects of a job identify broadly with the material conception of aspirations I identified in the intensive phase of my research: job security, and high income. The remaining four aspects of a job identify broadly with the immaterial conception of aspirations: interesting; helping others; time for leisure, and worthwhile.
Out of interest I wanted to see the relative importance of material and immaterial factors in influencing young people’s aspirations in the BHPS data. Taking the most recent wave with items addressing conceptions, Wave 17, filtering to include only those aged 15 and 16 at the time of the fieldwork, I calculated a net score for each job element by subtracting the percentage of young people responding ‘not important’ or ‘unimportant’ from the percentage of young people responding ‘very important’ or ‘important’. It’s a crude way of assessing the relative importance of the material (red) and immaterial (blue) conceptions of aspirations in the BHPS data on aggregate, but it gives the following results:
Having assessed the way in which the BHPS data covers the content and conceptions of young people’s aspirations, I need to look into if, and how, the data deals with place.