Nießen, D., Wicht, A., Schoon, I., & Lechner, C. M. (2022). “You can’t always get what you want”: Prevalence, magnitude, and predictors of the aspiration–attainment gap after the school-to-work transition. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 71: 102091. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2022.102091
The authors examined the prevalence, magnitude, and predictors of the aspiration–attainment gap (AAG) in social status among intermediate secondary school (Realschule) graduates after the transition from school to vocational education and training (VET) in Germany. The AAG measures the ability to realize occupational aspirations. The key findings are the following: (1) The AAG is a widespread phenomenon: About half of the sample experienced an AAG to varying degrees in the sense that they attained VET positions with a lower social status than that of their aspirations. (2) The level of aspirations was the most important predictor for a higher risk of an AAG. Those who set their aspirations high may fall far behind. These were mostly school leavers from privileged backgrounds (i.e., with higher educational attainment and higher family and individual resources). (3) Interestingly, the same group of characteristics from a privileged background also predicted a lower risk of an AAG, regardless of the level of aspirations, by providing the resources needed to attain higher aspirations. Given that the AAG is associated with negative consequences, particularly for well-being and motivation, it is important to take appropriate measures to help adolescents set realistic goals and pursue them regardless of their resource endowments.