Theme 1 Project 2: The Crisis for Contemporary Youth: Young People, Opportunities and Civic Values in the UK

The aim of this project is to explore the transformation of opportunities for young people in the UK and the implications this has for civic values as they make the transition to adulthood. The transition from youth to adulthood typically involves key milestones such as: completing education; moving out of the family home; entering the job market; and starting a family. In the past, these milestones often occurred when young people were in their early to mid-twenties. However recent research suggests that these milestones are being postponed, or perhaps even missed altogether.

Analysing the emerging patterns and their implications is particularly important in the current context. Various indicators suggest that young people have been amongst the hardest hit by the current economic crisis, and that opportunities for young people, relative to those of their parent’s generation, appear worse than they have been for many decades. For example, youth unemployment is at a record high, and at the end of 2012 around 21 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds in the UK were out of work, compared with a national average of 7.7 per cent. However, the challenges that young people experience may not be temporary or crisis driven; they may also be part of longer-term changes in social and economic structures. The high cost of housing, for example, predates the current economic crisis, and the proportion of young people living with their parents has been increasing since 1997.

Within the different elements of transitions that shape young people’s experiences, the project will focus on changes in two main areas: opportunities and civic values. More specifically, the project has two key aims:

  • To explore the employment, educational and housing opportunities of young people making the transition to adulthood,
  • To understand whether, and eventually how, changes in these opportunities may affect young people’s civic engagement and civic values

This is a mixed-method project that will draw on existing data (such as the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS)), as well as generating new qualitative and quantitative data.

The quantitative data collection will involve running a further wave of the CELS survey of civic learning, behaviours, and attitudes among young people in England. This data will be used to trace the evolution opportunities and values among young people who were reaching adulthood at the time of the onset of the financial crisis in 2007 and who have been trying to engage with the labour market in the subsequent period of rapidly changing opportunities for young people. To find out more about CELS, click here.

The qualitative strand of the project will conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews with young people across the UK, to find out how the current climate is affecting their values, opportunities, and aspirations, and to explore how these experiences and attitudes vary across regions and between different social sub-groups.

Project team

Andy Green
Avril Keating
Germ Janmaat
Bryony Hoskins
Michela Franceschelli