Inequalities in school leavers’ labour market outcomes: Do school subject choices matter?

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Despite a wide international literature on the effect of vocational and general education on school-to-work transition, relatively little is known about the role of having studied specific subjects in explaining inequalities in young people’s labour market outcomes. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining differences in employment chances of young people who left education early, either at the end of compulsory schooling or at the end of secondary school. Using data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study, a large-scale linkage study created using data from administrative and statistical sources, we found little gender differences but strong parental background differences in school leavers’ employment status and type of occupation entered. Social inequalities in labour market outcomes were only partly explained by curriculum choices. Moreover, after controlling for social origin and grades, only history and business for lower-secondary leavers and maths for upper-secondary leavers were associated with a reduction in the chances of being unemployed/inactive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-74
Number of pages20
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • school curriculum
  • inequality
  • school leavers
  • labour market outcomes


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