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Going Separate Ways? School-to-Work Transitions in the United States and Europe

Listed author(s):
  • Glenda Quintini


  • Thomas Manfredi


This paper derives school-to-work transition pathways in the United States and Europe between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. To do so, it uses Optimal Matching, a technique developed to sequence DNA. The key advantage of using this technique is that, rather than focusing on a specific point in time or a single destination, such as employment, inactivity or unemployment, they convey information on all activities undertaken by youth over the transition period, their sequence and their persistence. Strong similarities are found between the United States and Europe. However, pathways in the United States are characterised by significantly more dynamism than in Europe: youth in employment tend to change jobs more frequently while inactive or unemployed youth are more likely to experience several short spells rather than a single long one. School-to-work transition pathways in the United States also involve less time spent in unemployment than in Europe. The share of school-leavers involved in pathways dominated by employment is larger in the United States than in Europe and non-employment traps are less frequent in the United States. The most successful European countries in terms of school-to-work transitions are those where apprenticeships are widespread. On the other hand, European countries with a high incidence of temporary work among youth have a significantly smaller share of youth belonging to pathways dominated by employment and a larger share of youth in pathways characterised by frequent job changes separated by long unemployment spells. At the individual level, qualifications, gender, ethnicity and motherhood are found to influence the probability of disconnecting from the labour market and education for a prolonged period of time. Overall, the analysis shows the potential of Optimal Matching as a descriptive tool for the study of school-to-work transitions. It also tentatively explores how pathways obtained through Optimal Matching could be used for further analysis to draw policy-relevant conclusions. At present, data availability appears to be the main barrier to fully exploiting this novel technique. Cet article analyse les trajectoires de transition de l’école à l’emploi aux États-Unis et en Europe entre la fin des années 1990 et le début des années 2000. Pour ce faire, il utilise « l’Optimal Matching », une technique développée pour l’analyse des séquences d’ADN. Le principal atout de cette technique est qu’au lieu de se concentrer sur un moment spécifique ou sur une seule activité, telle que l’emploi, l’inactivité ou le chômage, elles véhiculent de l’information sur toute les activités entreprises par les jeunes pendant la période de transition, leur chronologie et leur persévérance. On constante de nombreuses similarités entre les États-Unis et l’Europe. Toutefois, les trajectoires aux États-Unis sont caractérisées par beaucoup plus de dynamisme qu’en Europe : les jeunes occupés ont tendance à changer d’emploi plus fréquemment et les épisodes de chômage sont plus souvent cours et répétés que de longue durée. Les trajectoires de transition de l’école à l’emploi aux États-Unis sont aussi caractérisées par moins de temps passé au chômage qu’en Europe. La proportion de jeunes quittant l’école qui entame des trajectoires dominées par l’emploi est plus importante aux États-Unis qu’en Europe et les pièges du non-emploi sont moins fréquents aux États-Unis. Les pays européens les plus performants en termes de transitions de l’école à l’emploi sont ceux où l’apprentissage est le plus répandu. D’autre part, les pays européens à forte incidence de l’emploi temporaire parmi les jeunes, présentent une part plus faible de jeunes dans les trajectoires dominées par l’emploi et une part plus importante de jeunes dans les trajectoires marquées par plusieurs changements d’emploi séparés par de longs épisodes de chômage. Au niveau individuel, le niveau de qualification, le sexe, l’origine ethnique et la maternité influencent la probabilité de se déconnecter du marché du travail et du système éducatif pour une période prolongée. Globalement, l’analyse montre le potentiel de l’Optimal Matching comme outil descriptif dans l’étude des transitions de l’école à l’emploi. Cet article tente également d’utiliser les trajectoires obtenues avec l’application de l’Optimal Matching pour en tirer des conclusions politiques. La disponibilité de données est actuellement la principale barrière à l’exploitation à part entière de cette nouvelle technique.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers with number 90.

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Date of creation: 20 Aug 2009
Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:90-en
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