When aspirations aren't enough: educational aspirations and university participation among Canadian youth

  • Author / Creator
    Hudson, Julie Beth
  • This study asks are educational aspirations enough? Specifically, this dissertation enquires whether educational aspirations have the potential to allow young people to overcome traditional class-based and other sources of inequality and achieve educational parity with their non-disadvantaged peers. This research utilized Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey (YITS), a nationally representative longitudinal study that collected data from approximately 26,000 15-year old youth in 2000, as well as from their parents and schools, with follow-up studies in 2002 and 2004.
    This study used both Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice and status attainment theory to help explain both the micro- and macro-level processes involved in the perpetuation of educational inequality using young people’s educational aspirations as the nexus for linking these theoretical approaches.

    This study showed that educational aspirations at age 15 and educational participation by age 19 systematically vary between groups of youth who come from more or less advantaged backgrounds. Educational aspirations have a strong impact on educational participation. Educational aspirations and grade 12 marks have the strongest direct effect on educational participation. Using path analysis, we find that the sum of the direct and indirect effects of socio-economic, individual demographic and geographic factors, along with parents’ aspirations exceeds the independent effect exerted by both educational aspirations and grade 12 marks. Finally, while school type and quality affect a number of relationships between predictor variables and educational participation at age 19, the role of educational aspirations is not affected by either school quality or type.

    In conclusion, this research found that yes, educational aspirations do matter. However, despite substantial changes in Canada’s social structure, economy, labour market, and education systems in the past decades, they continue to be shaped and operate within the larger constellation of other socio-economic, individual demographic, geographical, and educational factors. Thus, while elevating educational aspirations alone is not enough to ensure that youth make successful post-secondary transitions, policies and programs that that inform young people and their parents about the variety of post-secondary options and what is required to be successful in them would help make educational aspirations a more meaningful mechanism for future educational success.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.