Subproject 4 School-to-work transitions and health inequalities among young adults

The entrance into professional life usually occurs between the ages of 16 and 24 years and is a crucial period in the life course. The presence of socioeconomic inequalities in health at this stage is therefore problematic and requires further research. These inequalities are determined by individual-level (i.e., behavioural, material, and psychosocial) factors which are, in turn, affected by more distal institutional contexts at the meso-level which young adults attend at this stage of life (e.g. universities, vocational schools).

Each of these institutions provides distinct contexts that directly and indirectly influence health and that may aggravate or decrease health inequalities. Thus, to gain a better understanding of health inequalities among young adults, the complex interrelation of individual and institutional factors at the meso-level needs to be taken into account. Because there is, to date, a striking lack of research on the role of meso-level factors during ‘school-to-work transitions’, the aim of this subproject is to provide new evidence on this issue.

Research questions are:

  1. Which individual-level determinants (behavioural, material, and psychosocial) contribute to an association between SEP and health among young adults?
  2. Is the association between SEP, individual-level determinants and health influenced by the type of institution which young adults enter during school-to-work transitions (e.g. vocational training vs. university)?
  3. Which specific contextual characteristics of single institutional units (e.g. of work environments) affect the emergence of health inequalities?

Based on an overview of the literature, the project will first summarize current evidence on health inequalities during school-to work transitions and generate a conceptual framework for the empirical part which includes three empirical case studies. In the first study, longitudinal data of the starting cohort 4 of the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) will be used to investigates how health inequalities develop from the age of 16 to 24 years, how individual-level factors contribute to health inequalities and how different institutional contexts moderate or mediate health inequalities. In studies 2 and 3, the focus will lie on analyzing the impact of specific contextual characteristics of two single institutions, namely university (longitudinal, NEPS, starting cohort 5, university students) and vocational training/work (cross-sectional, ‘Jugenderwerbstätigenbefragung’). Results will inform the overarching multi-level model of health inequalities from birth to young adulthood to be developed by the coordination project. Findings of this subproject are an important contribution further illuminating a life stage that is crucial for health in later life and the role of key societal institutions.


Institute of Medical Sociology, Centre for Health and Society, Medical Faculty, Heinrich Heine
University Düsseldorf

  • Nico Dragano, Prof. Dr.
  • Claudia Pischke. Prof. Dr.
  • Marvin Reuter, M.A.