How job-market perceptions influence schoolwork

How job-market perceptions influence schoolwork

When it comes to how school students engage with their learning in the classroom, the perceptions they have of the job market can be crucial.

This is according to a new study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Lynch School of Education at Boston College, and Medford Public Schools.

While other studies have explored the link between the labor market and high school graduation rates, this new research is the first to look at how youth’s perceptions of the job market impact the way they study and plan while still in high school.

It found teens’ perceptions of the job market – regardless of whether they believe that jobs are scarce, or that their education will help them obtain a job — can significantly impact their decision to remain engaged in school.

However, the research also highlighted the influence of parents and schools on how students perceive the job market, and the impact of this influence on students’ pessimism about their career prospects. 

For example, students who were more pessimistic about the job market were less academically engaged, but students whose parents were actively engaged in their learning showed less pessimism of the job market.

The link between job market pessimism and academic engagement was stronger for students whose parents did not have a bachelor’s degree than it was for students whose parents had completed college.

The negative impact of job market pessimism on engagement was more acute for students with stronger family and school supports.

This was a particularly surprising finding given that these are students assumed to be less at risk of losing academic motivation.

Among the key takeaways for parents and schools are to pay attention to messages about the economy that young people hear, recognise that pessimism may impact students’ learning and remain supportive by encouraging learning.

The original version of this story was first published in Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge page.


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