Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

What Do They Want in Life?: The Life Goals of a Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Generational Sample of High School Seniors


This study investigated ethnic as well as gender and generational similarities and differences in the life goals among graduating high-school seniors. Adolescents came from six ethnic groups: White, African, Mexican, Other Latino, Filipino, and East/Southeast Asian Americans. Their self-articulated medium-range life goals were grouped into 8 major categories such as occupational, educational, familial, and material goals. Group differences in various aspects of future plans, such as priorities given to different life goals, time frame of attainment, and perceived controllability over their attainment, were also examined. Hypothesized group differences based on current social realities and small-scale qualitative studies on ethnic minorities were not found; there were very few ethnic, gender, and generational differences in adolescents' life goals. All groups reported a higher priority for, earlier expected attainment of, and more control over their medium-range educational and occupational goals than their family-related and material goals. Further, long-term educational and occupational aspirations were high across all groups. There were moderate ethnic differences in educational expectations and none for corresponding career expectations. Thus, current inequalities in educational and occupational attainments across ethnic groups were only partially reflected in the life goals of adolescents on the brink of graduating from high school. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View