Theme 1: Youth, Inter-generational Mobility, and Civic Values

Theme 1: Youth, Inter-generational Mobility, and Civic Values

Karen Evans
Other Team members: 
Chiara Rosazza Bondibene, Claire Callender, Richard Dorsett, Michela Franceschelli, Alison Fuller, Andy Green, David Guile, Bryony Hoskins, Germ Janmaat, Avril Keating, Pauline Leonard, Geoff Mason, Nicola Pensiero, Cinzia Rienza, Ingrid Schoon,
Martin Weale, and Rachel Wilde

About the Theme:

Theme 1 projects focus on young people as they seek to enter the labour market and set out on their independent lives. We are building on a set of well-established understandings.

  • Young people’s life chances are profoundly affected by macroeconomic conditions, social background, gender, ethnicity, and by social structures.
  • For individuals, their own personal qualities and resources such as ability, motivation, and aspirations, also play a large role.
  • Social origin, gender and ethnicity influence the range of options available to the individual –
  • But so too do historical events beyond individuals’ control, such as changes in the labour market, economic downturn, or the outbreak of war.


Young people and adults alike alter their behaviour and motivation in response to such changing social contexts. As educational, labour market and housing opportunities become tougher, there is increasing pressure on young people’s initiative and ability if they are to and thrive in this more difficult world. On various measures, young people appear to be at risk of being ‘shut out’ of opportunities, potentially creating conditions for social disorder.    

What can be done? In order to improve economic, educational and social planning, the UK needs a stronger knowledge base on these matters. As well as understanding the role of life planning and motivation in steering young people on their paths to adulthood, we need to know more about the ways in which social practices are changing (e.g. in civic participation and in seeking jobs and building careers) and how organisational, social, cultural and sub-cultural practices are affected by economic downturn, changing social expectations and the changing socio-political environment. Equally important is how the incentives and disincentives to engagement in education, training and civic participation are changing.

In Theme One, we are building on previous LLAKES interdisciplinary work by focusing on the ways in which young people respond to and cope with a sudden downturn in employment opportunities and the changing pressures involved in making decisions about further and higher education.

We focus on the inter-relationships between individual responses; family background (the influence of class, educational background, family support and other inter-generational factors); and the ways in which the behaviour of organisations and social practices are changing. By focusing on the inter-generational inter-linkages of a far wider range of factors than has been addressed by previous studies (which have focused mainly on class or income), and by exploring attitudes and risks associated with worklessness, family support, marital dissolution, health and housing, the theme offers social scientific originality as well as answers to policy relevant questions about parental and socio-economic influences on attitudes and behaviours of the current generation of young people.

The overall approach is mixed-method and highly interdisciplinary, drawing on political and educational sciences, economics and demography, the sociology of youth and youth transitions, life course research, social anthropology, social and economic geography and political economy.

Theme One contains the following projects:

Project 1: Intergenerational Dynamics in Learning Engagement, Life Chances and Well-Being of Young People

Project 2: The Crisis for Contemporary Youth: Young People, Opportunities and Civic Values

Project 3: Getting in and Getting on in the Youth Labour Market: Entry Practices, Under-Employment and Skill Formation in Regional Economies

Project 4: Student Debt, Higher Education Participation and Intermediate Skills Development

Contact details: Professor Karen Evans,, 020 7612 6561