Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. SD 1.1 Life goals

04/01/1997

The personal and social life goals of high school students reflect their priorities for the future and provide insights into the positive and negative influences in their lives as they make the transition to adulthood. The percentages of high school seniors who rated selected personal and social life goals as extremely important for 1976 through 1995 are presented in Table SD 1.1. Personal goals include being successful at work, having a good marriage and family life, and having lots of money. Social goals include making a contribution to society, working to correct social and economic inequalities, and being a leader in the community.

From 1976 through 1995, high school seniors have been fairly consistent in the relative importance they assign to various life goals. Specifically:

  • Having a Good Marriage and Family Life and Being Successful in My Line of Work have been cited most often by high school seniors as being extremely important. By 1995, four out of five high school seniors felt it extremely important to have a good marriage and family life (see Figure SD 1.1.A).
  • Having Lots of Money and Making a Contribution to Society were the next most likely goals to be considered extremely important by high school seniors. The percentage of seniors who find these goals important is considerably lower, hovering between 20 and 30 percent in recent years (see Figures SD 1.1.A. and SD 1.1.B).
  • Working to Correct Social and Economic Inequalities and Being a Leader in the Community are important goals for only small percentages of high school seniors 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in 1995 (see Figure SD 1.1.B).

Differences by Race. In 1995, black students were more likely than whites to view as extremely important issues such as being successful at work (72 percent versus 59 percent), having lots of money (41 percent versus 21 percent), and correcting social and economic inequalities (18 percent versus 8 percent). The two groups appeared equally likely to attach extreme importance to having a good marriage and family life, a rate that has hovered around 75 percent for both races over time.

Differences by Gender. Across the six goals, rates vary little between male students and female students with two exceptions. In 1995, females were more likely to indicate that having a good marriage and family life was extremely important (83 percent versus 73 percent), and were less likely to report that having lots of money was an extremely important goal (19 percent versus 30 percent).
 

Figure SD 1.1.A  
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Rate Selected Personal Goals as Being Extremely Important, 1995 

SD1_1A.GIF

Source: Bachman, J.G., Johnston, L.D., and OMalley, P.M. Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire responses from the Nations High School Seniors, 1995. Questionnaire form 1 numbers, A007A, A007B, A007C. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.
 
 

Figure SD 1.1.B  
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Rate Selected Social Goals as Being Extremely Important, 1995 

SD1_1B.GIF

Source: Bachman, J.G., Johnston, L.D., and OMalley, P.M. Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire responses from the Nations High School Seniors, 1995. Questionnaire form 1 numbers, A007G, A007H, A007L. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.
 
 

Table SD 1.1  
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Rate Selected Life Goals as Being "Extremely Important," 1976-1995

                       
       
1976
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                       
Personal Goals
Being Successful in My Line of Work
                       
Total
53
57
61
62
66
65
63
62
  Gender 
    Male  
53
58
62
60
63
63
61
62
    Female  
52
57
60
64
69
67
66
62
  Race
    White  
50
55
58
59
65
62
60
59
    Black  
67
71
73
75
80
74
79
72
                       
Having a Good Marriage and Family Life
                       
Total
73
76
75
76
78
79
76
78
  Gender
    Male  
66
71
69
71
72
74
70
73
    Female  
80
82
82
83
84
85
81
83
  Race 
    White  
72
77
76
76
79
79
76
78
    Black  
75
73
76
78
75
76
72
76
                       
Having Lots of Money
                       
Total
15
18
27
28
29
26
26
25
  Gender
    Male  
20
24
34
37
35
32
32
30
    Female  
11
13
18
19
22
18
19
19
  Race 
    White  
12
15
24
25
24
20
22
21
    Black  
33
32
38
39
46
45
47
41
                       
 

 
 

Table SD 1.1 Continued 
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Rate Selected Life Goals as Being "Extremely Important," 1976-1995

                       
       
1976
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                       
Social Goals
                       
Making a Contribution to Society
Total
18
18
17
21
22
24
24
20
  Gender 
    Male  
16
19
18
20
22
25
23
19
    Female  
20
17
16
22
23
25
25
21
  Race
    White  
18
18
16
20
22
24
23
19
    Black  
23
21
20
27
27
25
29
25
                       
Working to Correct Social and Economic Inequalities
Total
10
10
9
12
15
15
14
10
  Gender
    Male  
8
9
7
11
14
14
12
9
    Female  
13
10
11
13
17
16
16
10
  Race
    White  
8
7
7
10
13
12
11
8
    Black  
20
21
19
21
26
21
25
18
                       
Being a Leader in My Community
Total
7
8
9
11
13
13
14
12
  Gender
    Male  
8
8
11
12
14
17
14
14
    Female  
6
7
6
10
11
10
13
10
  Race
    White  
6
7
8
9
11
12
12
10
    Black  
14
14
12
17
21
19
21
22
                       
Source: Bachman, J. G., Johnston, L. D. & O Malley, P. M. "Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nations High School Seniors" 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 Questionnaire Form 1 numbers. A007A, A007B, A007C, A007G, A007H, A007L. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.

 

 

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