Gender Differences in Education and Youth Transitions 1985-2005

The Scottish School Leavers’ Surveys (SSLS) were a rich source of information about the experiences of young people between the ages 16 and 23., and provided longitudinal data on their secondary schooling, and their transitions through further and higher education, training, employment etc. Funded by the Scottish government from the 1970s to 2005, the SSLS is now discontinued

A time-series dataset has been created from the SSLS for young people who completed compulsory schooling between 1984 and 2002 (Croxford, 2009). These data have been used to analyse changing (in) equalities in terms of gender over time as follows:



  • Levels of serious truancy (days or weeks at a time) have not changed much over time and are associated with low attainment among both males and females.
  • Young women were more likely to stay on in full-time education after 16 than their male counterparts, but the gap narrowed over time as an increasing proportion of young men participated in post-16 education
  • Over the whole period (1985-2005), females achieved higher average attainment than males and the gap widened slightly over time.
  • The consequences of low attainment have been more severe for young women than for male low-attainers.
  • Gendered choice of subjects in third year of secondary school continued to influence subsequent choices for post-16 education, higher education, careers options and ultimately earnings.


Youth Transitions


  • Opportunities for studying science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education have expanded to a greater extent than arts and humanities. Young men are more likely than young women to apply for SET courses, and because they have lower entry requirements, this provides some advantage for young men, who are more likely to enter degree courses than their female counterparts with equivalent entry qualifications.
  • Labour market opportunities for young people continue to be strongly differentiated along traditional gender lines.
  • Those young women who left education at age 16 had poorer outcomes than equivalent males: they were less likely to obtain training and had lower average wages.
  • Females who were not in education, employment, or training (NEET) tended to be in this status longer than their male counterparts.


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