The Development of Occupational Aspirations and Expectations among Inner-City Boys

Thomas D. Cook*, Mary B. Church, Subira Ajanaku, William R. Shadish, Jeong Ran Kim, Robert Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


The occupational aspirations and expectations of two populations of boys in grades 2, 4, 6, and 8 were examined in order (1) to describe what is unique about the development of job preferences among urban ghetto children who live in settings where many adult males are not well attached to the labor force and (2) to examine 6 reasons for any age- and population-dependent patterns there might be in job aspirations and job expectations. Findings show that boys tend to be more realistic about occupational aspirations and expectations the older they are; that from second grade on the occupational expectations of inner-city boys mirror existing race and class differences in adult job holdings; that the gap between occupational aspirations and expectations is greater for the ghetto boys and remains roughly constant in size across the grades examined; and that the lower occupational expectations of the inner-city boys are strongly related to their lower educational expectations, with these educational expectations being associated with fewer poor boys having a biological father at home and with more of these boys seeing obstacles to success in the local social setting. But, the lower occupational expectations of the ghetto boys are not due to having fewer positive role models or believing that schooling will not pay off for them in the future as it does for others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3368-3385
Number of pages18
JournalChild Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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