As well as area-level deprivation, the extensive phase of my research sets out to explore the relationship between young people’s occupational aspirations and the types of area they live in, as measured by the Output Area Classification (OAC). The OAC uses data from the 2001 Census to group the 223,060 Output Areas in the UK into groups of similarity based on their Census attributes (an updated OAC based on the 2011 Census is painfully close to release but not yet available). Unlike commercial geodemographic classifications such as Acorn and Mosaic, OAC is freely available from the ONS and OAC codes for households in Understanding Society are available under Special Licence.
OAC consists of 7 super-groups, which in turn consist of 21 groups and 52 sub-groups. There’s more about the classification in this article by Daniel Vickers and Phil Rees. At this stage I’ve been exploring the association between the top level of the OAC (the 7 super-groups) and the occupational aspirations of young people from each of these super-groups, using data from the Understanding Society Wave 1 Youth Questionnaire, to see if any patterns emerge before I start statistical modelling.
The 7 OAC super-groups are defined by the Census attributes of the areas they contain – specifically, those attributes that are far more prevalent than the national average, and those that are far less prevalent than the national average. The table below summarises the characteristics of each of the 7 OAC super-groups, based on this article by Susan Williams and Andrew Botterill. I’ve also included some example areas to bring the classification to life, with the aid of this map by Oliver O’Brien at CASA:
The seven super-groups of the 2001 Output Area Classification, with their defining Census characteristics and example areas of the UK where a large concentration of Output Areas are defined by a particular super-group
A simple two-way table of the OAC super-groups and the occupational aspirations of young people from each of these seven different area types shows some interesting and statistically significant patterns (five of the nine groups in the SOC2010 occupational classification have been left out because of small cell counts):
Data from 3067 respondents to the Understanding Society Wave 1 Youth Questionnaire (UKDA SN6614 and SN6674). Each row is colour-coded from red (for cells with the lowest proportions in that row) to green (for cells with the highest proportions in that row)
The proportion of young people aspiring to Professional Occupations varies widely, from almost half of young people from areas classified as ‘City Living’ and ‘Multicultural’, to only a third of those from ‘Blue Collar Communities’ and ‘Constrained by Circumstances’ area types. The trend is reversed in the case of Skilled Trades and Caring, Leisure and Other Service Occupations – the proportions of young people aspiring to these jobs are highest in ‘Blue Collar Communities’ and ‘Constrained by Circumstances’ area types and lowest in ‘City Living’ and ‘Multicultural’ area types. Meanwhile, aspirations for Associate Professional and Technical Occupations are most common in ‘Prospering Suburbs’ and ‘Typical Traits’ area types, where 40% of young people aspire to these jobs, and least common in areas classified as ‘Countryside’, where 33% of young people aspire to these jobs.
There was very little variation in aspirations when I considered differences in area-level deprivation, so it seems, at this basic initial level at least, that when it comes to a spatial analysis of how young people’s occupational aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in, area type is more significant than area deprivation.