Educational and work strategies from adolescence to early adulthood: consequences for educational attainment

Jeremy Staff, Jeylan T. Mortimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Whereas sociologists have long recognized that adolescence marks the start of the socioeconomic career, the importance of this period has been attributed to school performance, aspirations and significant others' influence that support educational attainment to a greater or lesser degree. The underlying premise of this study is that adolescent work is an expression of instrumental action with consequences for socioeconomic attainment. Using data from the Youth Development Study, we find that part-time work during high school is linked with patterns of schooling and working that persist during the succeeding years and are more or less conducive to the receipt of a BA/BS degree. Moderate work coupled with school appears to especially facilitate the educational attainment of low promise youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1169-1194
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, March 11-14, 2004. This research is supported by grants titled "Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth" from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD44138) and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843). The authors thank Scott Eliason, Christopher Uggen, Ross Macmillan, Jennifer C. Lee and D. Wayne Osgood for helpful suggestions on the data analysis, Michael Shanahan for comments on a prior draft, and Sara Wakefield for research assistance. Direct correspondence to Jeremy Staff, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, 211 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802-6207.


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