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2012 | 21 | 1 | 123-141

Article title

From School to Work: Individual and Institutional Determinants of Educational and Occupational Career Trajectories of Young Poles

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The study is the first stage of a longitudinal project aimed at monitoring links between basic skills, educational qualifications and labor market outcomes in Poland. We focus on specific aspects concerning educational and occupational choices of young Poles and of broader issues of social stratification and mobility in post-industrial societies. In addition to theory, our research is also driven by social policy issues designed to deliver practical recommendations for educational and labor market policies. To accomplish these objectives we will carry out panel study based on representative sample of young Poles born in 1992–1993 who were surveyed for the first time in 2009. Our research would follow-up with them in 2013, and in 2014. Alongside social origin, questions concerning impact of basic skills on educational and occupational achievements (mediated by cultural, and social capital, and other variables) is of growing interest; our research will be a systematic approach to examine these associations in Poland, bearing in mind that only panel data can establish causal relations. We will conceptualize these links within three areas covered in the tradition of school-to-work transition research, namely: (i) relationships between educational and occupational achievements and meritocratic factors – relative to effects of social origin, social and cultural capital, and other individual variables; (ii) impact of institutional context on these associations as related to the educational system; and (iii) impact of institutional determinants embedded in the labour market. Given extensive transformation of political and economic institutions, paralleled by significant changes of the educational system, one can expect that in Poland different patterns have emerged regarding the role of education in allocating people to jobs. Societal idiosyncrasies might also emerge despite convergence in other aspects of social structure. Driven by hypotheses presented below we will attempt to establish the extent to which new institutional arrangements in the school-to-work transition overlap each other. Such a question may be: how far are new stratification patterns based on meritocracy in rewarding people for their skills and educational credentials? While principles of meritocracy may lead to economic effectiveness (and approved by most as meeting principles of distributive justice), meritocratic rules also bring inequality and social exclusion. We ask: to what extent are young people exposed to meritocratic selection? Do ascribed characteristics such as social origin continue to be important? Do distinctions between types of schools continue to influence their students’ chances on the labor market? Do employers rely on educational credentials when selecting individuals for specific jobs and – accordingly – do individuals invest in education in order to improve their competitive advantage on the labour market? As societies vary in the institutional arrangements that constrain the school-to-work transition, cross-national perspective matters. What may be regarded as an additional asset of our research is the opportunity to combine our data with PISA- Programme for International Student Assessment, a well-known international dataset of 60 countries. Harmonizing with PISA allows us to address questions on coordination mechanisms and linkages between Polish institutional subsystems of the market economy, and partially places us within the “varieties of capitalism” literature (Amable 2004; Hall and Soskice 2001).









Physical description


  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology Polish Academy of Sciences, Nowy Świat 72, Pałac Staszica, PL 00-330 Warszawa, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • The Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education, Poland


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