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In their twenties young adults experience major life events, such as leaving high school, starting postsecondary education, entering the labour market, leaving their parents' household and beginning family formation. These significant events in their lives have effects beyond their twenties.
At the beginning of the survey in 2000, students were 18 to 20 years old and 77% had graduated from high school, 13% were high school continuers, and 11% were high school dropouts. The proportion of graduates increased over time so that by the time participants were 26 to 28 years old, 92% of them had graduated.
A majority of them undertook postsecondary education. By the time they were 26 to 28 years old, 81% of them had participated in one form or another of postsecondary education, of which 42% had undertaken university, 43% had undertaken college, and 29% had undertaken other postsecondary education. Of those participants who undertook postsecondary education, 68% had graduated by the time they were 26 to 28 years old and an additional 13% had graduated and were pursuing further education. Five percent were pursuing their first postsecondary credential and 14% had left without graduating.
As participants grew older, the proportion of those participants attending school decreased as the proportion of those working increased. High school participation eventually dropped to zero, and postsecondary education participation decreased consistently to reach 15% by age 26 to 28 years. The majority of those 26 to 28 years old worked: close to 70% full time and 7% part time. A tenth of them were not in school and not working, more commonly females. However, a large number of females had children, and probably chose not to go to school or work in order to raise their families.
Over time, the proportion of those with a high school diploma or less decreased and the proportion of those with postsecondary education attainment increased. When they were 26 to 28 years old, the high school diploma was still the most common educational attainment, at 28%. Next, a college diploma and a bachelor degree were both at 24%, while 6% had obtained a graduate diploma. When they were 26 to 28 years old, 7% had less than a high school diploma, and 10% attained other postsecondary education.
Various demographic, family and school characteristics were related with the highest level of education attained by youth. Women, students coming from an urban community, non-Canadian born and visible minority students all achieved higher levels of education. Not surprisingly, good grades and good working habits in high school result in higher educational attainment. The educational background of parents was reflected in their children's educational achievement.
The most common pathway from school to adult life was to leave school, to find a full-time job, to leave the parental home, to form a relationship and finally to have children.
Though the pathway was the same for men and women, the timing of the different transitions was quite different. Men left school and started working full time earlier than women. In contrast, women left the parental home, formed a relationship and had children earlier than men. Throughout the eight years, in comparison with women, a higher proportion of men worked full time and still lived with their parents.
Over the last 35 years, youth have delayed their transitions to adulthood. Young adults participated in postsecondary education at a higher rate to be able to respond to rising demands of the labour market. Additionally, they stayed longer in school, lived with their parents longer and postponed marriage or a common-law relationship and parenthood.
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