Weathering the great recession: Psychological and behavioral trajectories in the transition from school to work

Mike Vuolo, Jeremy Staff, Jeylan T. Mortimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Studies of career development highlight the importance of finding a good "fit" between individual values, needs, and abilities and the experiences and rewards to be found in particular occupations. Rapid economic change and labor market turbulence make career choice and development life-long processes. Still, early careers are particularly unstable, as young workers move from "survival jobs" to "career jobs" in their quest for a good person-job fit. Little is known, however, about the psychological orientations and behaviors in the postadolescent period that foster longer term success in the world of work. The maintenance of high aspirations, crystallization of career goals, and intensive job search may be particularly important. Using multilevel latent class analysis applied to longitudinal data obtained from 1,010 youth surveyed by the ongoing Youth Development Study (YDS), we examine the interrelations of psychological orientations and behaviors indicative of agentic striving from age 18 to 31 years. In addition, we assess how these trajectories influence adaptation to declining labor market conditions during the severe economic recession that began in 2007. We find that those who maintain high aspiration and certainty over career goals were better insulated against unemployment between 2007 and 2009 (ages 33-35), even when educational and self-identified career attainments, adolescent achievement orientations, and social background variables indicative of advantage are controlled. They also had higher hourly wages in 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1759-1773
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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