Social inequality and young people in Europe: their capacity to aspire

world-social-science-report-2016-challenging-inequalities-pathways-to-a-just-world-2016-245825eArticle in World Social Science Report (UNESCO)
Evelyne Baillergeau and Jan Willem Duyvendak

Diverse resources can be used to achieve social position. While we immediately think of material, economic resources in this context, there are others as well, notably aspirations. As a projection of the self in a desirable future, aspirations are inspiring emotions that guide individuals’ commitments, whether these relate to work, school, sport or citizenship. Aspirations draw upon personal characteristics and preferences, but they are also socially constrained. They depend on which opportunities are available,
the future that is imagined and desired as a result of these opportunities, and thus, on the choices that can be made. As such, aspirations are affected by social inequality. As aspirations can influence future achievement, differences in aspirations can contribute to deepening social inequality, and can trigger corrosive disadvantage. Endeavours to research social inequality should therefore consider the social processes through which young people’s aspirations develop and crystallize.

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