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Moving from school to work

Project overview

This study looked at what happens to young people after they reach school-leaving age. Why do some young people move successfully from school to work while others do not?

Using data which follows the paths of young people from around the UK, Dr Richard Dorsett used advanced quantitative techniques to identify the main patterns of experience after leaving school, and to learn what causes these patterns.


Nine in ten young people experience generally successful labour market trajectories between ages 16 and 21. The remaining ten per cent are the most likely to warrant policy attention and can be divided into several key groups:

  • long-term inactivity from the age of 16 or from the age of 18
  • Long-term worklessness straddling unemployment and inactivity
  • Individuals experiencing some employment but developing only limited labour market attachment
  • Individuals who appear to withdraw from the labour market following an apparently successful entry into employment.

The second step in the analysis explored the extent to which specific characteristics at age 16 are associated with entering a given labour market trajectory. The ability to identify in advance who is at risk of an unsuccessful transition into the labour market provides important clues as to the type of policy that might be effective and who it should target.

The analysis confirms the importance of school attainment (grades), family background (parental qualifications, parental and sibling labour market status), and gender as the strongest predictors of future labour market outcomes.

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  • Dr Richard Dorsett
    National Institute of Economic and Social Research

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.