Ambition gone awry: the long-term socioeconomic consequences of misaligned and uncertain ambitions in adolescence.

Journal Article


The objective of this study was to investigate whether misaligned or uncertain ambitions in adolescence influence the process of socioeconomic attainment.


Using 34 years of longitudinal data from the British Cohort Study (BCS70), we considered whether youth with (1) misaligned ambitions (i.e., those who either over- or underestimate the level of education required for their desired occupation), (2) both low occupational aspirations and educational expectations (low-aligned ambitions), and (3) uncertainty with regard to their future occupations (uncertain ambitions) at age 16 experienced more unemployment spells, lower educational attainment, and lower hourly wages in adulthood compared to youth with high occupational aspirations and educational expectations (high-aligned ambitions).


Youth who hold misaligned or uncertain aspirations show long-term deficits in employment stability and educational attainment, which in turn leads to lower wage attainments at age 34.


Misaligned and uncertain ambitions in adolescence compromise the construction of life paths and the realization of long-term educational and occupational goals.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sabates, R; Harris, AL; Staff, J

Published Date

  • January 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 92 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 959 - 977

PubMed ID

  • 22180878

Pubmed Central ID

  • 22180878

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0038-4941


  • eng