Class, Work and Time

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Danish researchers have determined that social class (and associated jobs) determine how parents perceive time. Parents' perceptions of time tend to influence what subjects their children study. The parents' class distinction is shaped by the work-pay differences between the professional salary and the hourly wage. The Parent Herald reports:
The study "The Educational Strategies of Danish University Students from Professional and Working-Class Backgrounds" is based on 60 interviews with Danish students from six different university level study programmes: Medicine, architecture, sociology, economy, pharmacy and business studies.
Young people of parents with university degrees choose a 24-hour culture
... "For young people whose parents are university educated, factors such as prestige and a strong sense of professional identity are important. They are attracted by an educational culture in which you are a student 24/7, and where leisure activities are tied to the identity that lies within your studies. These young people have also grown up with topical discussions around the dinner table which also prepares them for their lives as students," says [co-author] Jens Peter Thomsen.
Young people from working class backgrounds choose '9 to 5' studies
When young people from working class homes with good grades in their A-level exams choose other paths than the prestigious studies, it is, among other things, due to the fact that they want a clearly defined aim of their studies.

"The young people who are first-generation university students often choose studies that are more '9 to 5' and less tied up to a sense of identity. They have lower academic expectations of themselves, and they choose studies with a clearly defined goal for their professional lives," in sectors where jobs are easily found.

They do not choose to study, e.g. sociology because it can be difficult to know what it might lead to jobwise, says the education sociologist. ... [Jens Peter Thomsen also] mentions that medical students from families of doctors may have a different view of the patient than a young person with a working class background, who also chooses to study medicine.
Who knows how generally true these findings are, given the study's limited numbers? At any rate, the researchers suggest that middle class students associate a broader understanding of time and work with their identity; and their job choices are secondary to that identity. That is, their work may be their life first, and their livelihood second.

On the other hand, students from working class families tend to take a pragmatic view, with a more constricted association between work and time; nor do they associate their personal identity with that more limited view. In other words, they may seek to shape personal identity outside their pragmatic job choices.

The researchers also found that the class-determined perception of time often persists across a generation, regardless of whether the graduates demonstrate upward or downward mobility. Finally, the study indicates that these class distinctions hold true, whether the university education in question is public and subsidized (and access to all fields of education is more equal) - or private and very expensive (and access to all fields of education is unequal).

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