Social capital and youth transitions: do young people's networks improve their participation in education and training?

By Ronnie Semo, Tom Karmel Research report 13 September 2011 ISBN 978 1 921955 22 8 print; 978 1 921955 21 1 web

Description

In this paper the authors explore the relationship between social capital at age 15 and participation in education and training at age 17. Using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) 2003 cohort, the analysis shows that social capital does play an important role in influencing educational participation. For both males and females, participation in school-based activities is found to have the greatest influence on participation in education and training, followed by the strength of the relationship students have with their teachers. Of particular interest, the authors find that social capital influences educational participation over and above the effects of background characteristics such as parental education and occupation, geographic location, cultural background and academic achievement.

Summary

About the research

Key messages

In recent times social capital has received considerable attention because it is seen as having the potential to address many of the problems facing modern society, including the poor educational outcomes of considerable numbers of young people.

This paper uses data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) to explore the relationship between social capital at age 15 and participation in education and training at age 17. The issue is whether social capital is yet another factor which advantages the already advantaged, or whether social capital operates separately from family background.

  • Social capital influences educational participation over and above the effects of background characteristics such as parents' education levels, parental occupation, geographic location, cultural background, school sector and academic achievement.
  • For both males and females, participation in a diverse range of activities has the greatest influence on participation in education and training, followed by the strength of the relationship students have with their teachers. Increasing rates of participation in sport also increase educational participation for females.
  • The authors note that, if anything, the findings underestimate the net effects of social capital because the results cannot fully account for the accumulation of social capital prior to the age of 15.

The finding that social capital matters for school education is a very positive one. It implies that activities that promote and encourage engagement at school can go some way to redressing economic and social disadvantage.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER

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