Social capital in the transition to vocational education and at labor market entry

Networks of their parents, a lively neighborhood, or clubs—those who have many such contacts are rich in "social capital". This resource offers access to support or useful knowledge. Does an individual's level of social capital also play a role in chances of finding an apprenticeship or entering the labor market? The research project investigates these two important transitions in the life course in Germany.


How young people are provided with social capital and how this is related to the successful transition to apprenticeship or employment is the first important research question of the project. In this early career stage, the social networks of adolescents and young adults are in a state of upheaval and expansion: Previous analyses of the transition to vocational training show comparatively little social inequality in the social capital endowment; adolescents are highly dependent on the support and social network of their parents. It is likely that inequalities regarding social capital resources will increase in the course of training and education up to the point of transition into the labor market.  The number and importance of less intense relationships will increase and differences in the type of available social capital will grow. While social capital makes little contribution to explaining social inequality at the transition into vocational training, it should therefore increase steadily over the course of a career.


For the second research question—job-specific aspects of social capital endowment—relevant preliminary work is still lacking. For this reason, a theoretical model must first be developed that explains how social capital unfolds its effects in relation to different characteristics of occupations that require training (e.g., type of training, school-leaving qualifications required, occupational status) and which of these are of particular relevance. In a second step, the model is empirically tested using data from the National Education Panel Study.


The analyses make an important contribution to understanding the peculiarities of social resources and the conditions and mechanisms under which these resources unfold their effects. The research project thus integrates important theoretical approaches from life course research and research on social capital into the research fields "transition from school to occupation" and "choice of occupation".