Individualized Choices or Unequal Opportunity? A Comparison of School-to-Work Transition Between GED and High School Graduates Using Innovative Sequence Analysis Approaches

Wenxuan Huang

Due to its “demographically dense” nature, transition to adulthood is widely studied to investigate de-/institutionalization of the life course in response to social changes. However, the de-institutionalized life course is less examined in the light of social inequality as opposed to the generalization of indiscriminate experience. Using NLSY97 data, this study compares the 15-year school-to-work sequences of two subgroups, i.e., GED and high school diploma holders to demonstrate whether a less institutionalized education qualification generates precarious labor market pathways. This study reports selected longitudinal and transversal characteristics of school-to-work sequences to showcase the differences in trajectories between these two groups. To move beyond descriptive level, this study employs two innovative sequence analysis techniques, i.e., discrepancy analysis of state sequences and implicative statistics of typical state. The results show that GED holders are more likely to fall into trajectories characterized by frequent state changes, instability and inactivity in labor market.

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 Presented in Session 158. Transition to Adulthood Among Vulnerable Youth