Pathways to employment outcomes: From first grade to young adulthood: A longitudinal study

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This study is a longitudinal investigation of the factors that lead to employment and occupational outcomes among African American males (N = 264) and females (N = 286) who have been followed since 1966. A life course developmental framework has guided the research. The conceptualized pathways have been analyzed using structural equation modeling. Data include measures from childhood (first grade—at about age 6), adolescence (at about age 16), and young adulthood (at about age 33). The first grade measures include family income source (wages vs. welfare), teacher rating of cognitive achievement and psychological well being. Adolescent measures include neighborhood (percent white-collar employment), drug use (hard liquor, cocaine and marijuana), aggression (five items), depressed feelings (four items) and self-esteem (four items). The young adulthood measures include education, teen parenthood, social ties (religion, organizational ties, and political participation), children, marital status, health (self-rated and debilitating), illegal drug use (cocaine and marijuana), alcohol use, having a criminal record, perceived discrimination and major depressive disorder. The outcome measures are employment and occupational status. Results from the structural equation modeling show that males and females have different pathways to employment. For females, education, having children, being married or partnered and social ties had a direct effect on occupational status. Among the largest indirect effects were adolescent aggression, teen parenthood, early cognitive achievement and family income source (first grade). For males, education, health, illegal drug use, having a criminal record and one of the adolescent depression items (sadness) had a significant impact on occupation. The largest indirect effects include latent factors of adolescent depression and adolescent aggression as well as first grade cognitive achievement. The effect of educational attainment generally dominated the models. Limitations notwithstanding, the findings suggest that an early focus for preparing individuals to become contributing members of society may be warranted. In addition, though a substantial portion of the variance has been accounted for (approximately 30%), other factors related to meso and macro contexts are likely to be exerting an influence on employment outcomes as well.






Public Health


The Johns Hopkins University