Uncertainty in Early Occupational Aspirations: Role Exploration or Aimlessness?

Journal Article

Many youth in the United States lack dear occupational aspirations. This uncertainty in achievement ambitions may benefit socio-economic attainment if it signifies "role exploration," characterized by career development, continued education and enduring partnerships. By contrast, uncertainty may diminish attainment if it instead leads to "aimlessness," involving prolonged education without the acquisition of a degree, residential dependence and frequent job changes. We use nationally representative data from the National Education Longitudinal Study to examine how uncertainty in occupational aspirations in adolescence (age 16) affects wage attainments in young adulthood (age 26). Results suggest that youth with undecided career ambitions earn significantly lower hourly wages in young adulthood than youth with more certain aspirations, supporting the view that uncertainty heightens the risk of labor-market problems.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Staff, J; Harris, AL; Sabates, R; Briddell, L

Published Date

  • 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 89 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 659 - 683

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0037-7732

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.2307/40984551