The Paths on Life’s Way Project is the only longitudinal study of its kind in British Columbia and one of the few longitudinal studies in Canada. The research, now spanning 33 years, is designed to provide a detailed examination of the post-secondary education and work experiences and attainments and other life experiences of a large sample of the Class of 1988 BC high school graduates and a smaller interview sample of 1990 high school students across different points in time and in relation to changing social and cultural conditions.
The participants in this study have been affected by several forces including structural factors such as their small cohort size; labour market entry both in recessionary times and in an era of global wage competition; the changing nature of the post-secondary system in terms of expansion, diversification, and interinstitutional articulation; and cultural factors such as increased emphasis on educational attainment by national policy campaigns. Other social and cultural forces include changing relationships among the family, education, and work over the life course of these individuals.
These forces, however, are not static. For example, since this cohort graduated from high school, the post-secondary system in British Columbia has expanded to include several new degree granting institutions. These structural changes were accompanied by changes in admission requirements, program availability, and the structure of the labour market. Hence, what constituted an opportunity to participate in post-secondary education has changed considerably between 1988 and 2021.
Longitudinal studies that follow cohorts over time allow researchers to seek answers to complex questions. International longitudinal comparative research on transition processes has the potential to enrich our understandings of the outcomes and effects of education, employment patterns and eventual life chances by providing an important evidence base about the organization of education, the relationship between education and the labour market of given countries and the impact of such structures on the life trajectories of their young people.
To address these issues, this project focuses on the following:
- What educational paths have the B.C. Class of ’88 and pursued since high school graduation (including retention, attrition, interinstitutional transfer, and program completion)?
- How does this sample of adults describe their experiences within the post-secondary system?
- What types of jobs have they held? What is the relationship between their education and subsequent occupational status?
- Have they married? Do they have children? What are their patterns of geographic mobility, including leaving home?
- How are their education and work experiences unique to their generation?
- When compared with previous generations, how have the adults in this study fared? In particular, to what extent do gender and social class continue to be related to educational and occupational attainment, work place experiences, relationships, and family responsibilities?
- How do longitudinal interview data of a sample 1989 Grade 12 students enliven the findings of the longitudinal survey data?
In addition, I have collaborated with Professor Johanna Wyn from the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne to conduct longitudinal comparative analyses of the Paths on Life’s Way project and the Australian Life Patterns project. Using 15 years of data from the Paths project, together with the 14 year longitudinal Life Patterns study of Australian young adults, we reported our findings our co-authored book The Making of a Generation: Children of the 1970s in Adulthood.