Parents’ occupations and their children’s aspirations

As well as variables describing young people and the areas they live in, my model will also include data on young people’s parents – such as their class, current job and financial circumstances. Before I could begin to consider these parental factors, however, I needed to verify a large amount of missing data. In total, of the 4899 young people¬†in the Understanding Society Wave 1 sample, 360 have missing data on their natural/adoptive or step mothers and 1840 have missing data on their fathers. 190 mothers and 1349 fathers were no longer in the household when the Wave 1 fieldwork was conducted, while the remaining missing parents (170 mothers and 491 fathers) were part of the household but did not complete their interview – in most cases because they refused to participate. I needed to manually check this missing data, using the household enumeration dataset which records all interview outcomes, to ensure that the data wasn’t missing as a result of a bad merge on my part.

With the missing parental data verified, I can start some simple bivariate analysis of parent-level factors and young people’s aspirations, beginning by considering parents’ current job. For cases where young people’s parents are both in work, I took the dominance approach to coding parental occupation, taking the highest of the two jobs within the SOC2000 classification (with SOC Group 1 taken to be ‘highest’). If a parent wasn’t currently in work, I took their previous occupation (if available) to boost the sample. It almost slipped my attention that while young people’s occupational aspirations are coded to SOC2010, parents’ occupations are coded to SOC2000, ¬†although the two classifications map onto each other fairly straightforwardly. This left me with an analytical sample of 4513, so there are 386 young people without any occupational data for either parent.

Collapsing parents’ occupations to the nine SOC major groups produced the crosstabulation below. While the overall association between young people’s aspirations and their parents’ occupations is weak, this association might strengthen with some recoding, and there are some interesting patterns in the data. On the whole, if young people tend to aspire to similar jobs to those their parents do (an assumption that seems reasonable but isn’t well tested in the literature), we’d expect to see green cells running from the top left to the bottom right of the table, with red cells clustering at the top right and bottom left. There are some associations which appear to confirm this assumption – particularly in Group 2 and Group 3: young people whose parents have a professional background are the most likely to aspire to professional occupations. Meanwhile, aspirations further down the occupational classification are also more prevalent among young people whose parents hold a similar occupational position.

parent_occ_yp_aspsData from 4513 respondents to the Understanding Society Wave 1 Youth Questionnaire (UKDA SN6614). 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)

One thought on “Parents’ occupations and their children’s aspirations

  1. Good detective work. :)
    You might want to consider recoding some of those categories to avoid small cell counts, and perhaps think about translating those occupations into the NS-SEC or something similar (but that depends on what you’d like to achieve).

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