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08-07-2017 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 10/2017

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 10/2017

Youth’s Causal Beliefs About Success: Socioeconomic Differences and Prediction of Early Career Development

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 10/2017
Joseph S. Kay, Jacob Shane, Jutta Heckhausen


Youth’s career attainment is associated with socioeconomic background, but may also be related to their beliefs about causes of success. Relationships between 17-year-olds’ socioeconomic status (SES) and causal beliefs about success, and whether these beliefs predict career attainment after completing a vocational or university degree were examined using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (n = 997, 48.5% female). Youth with higher SES parents and those who attended higher levels of high schools were less likely to believe that success in society is due to external causes, but SES was unrelated to the belief that success is due to personal merit or ability. Youth who believe that success is due to external causes attained lower income, occupational prestige, and job autonomy, and slower increases in income over time. There were also significant indirect effects of youth’s parents’ SES and their own high school levels on career attainment through such external causal beliefs; merit beliefs, by contrast, were largely unrelated to career attainment. These results suggest that beliefs about external causes of success may uniquely contribute to the transmission and maintenance of SES across generations and over time.

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