Almost all girls want to be doctors when they grow up, regardless of their ethnic background, while boys overwhelmingly aspire to be sportsmen and lawyers, a new study has revealed.
When children across a range of ethnicities in the UK were asked about their future career aspirations, engineer, actor and vet also made their dream jobs list, among other well paid occupations.
Children were asked what they want to be when they grow up at the age of seven, 11 and 14. When their answers were broken down by their ethnic backgrounds, white children were found to have job aspirations that would see them earn lower on average than children from minority groups.
However, once they had grown up, gone on to higher or further education and entered the world of work, white men and women were found to be earning more than most of the minority groups by the age of 25.
The report, by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the Runnymede Trust, looked at the occupational aspirations of children from primary school to teenage years across all ethnic groups, using data from the Millennium Cohort study, which follows more than 19,500 children born in the UK in 2000 and 2001, alongside Next Steps research that tracks 16,000 young people as they grow up in England.
Researchers studied the aspirations of boys and girls from white, mixed, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, black Caribbean and black African backgrounds to see if any differences translated to labour market outcomes. Next Steps data was used to find out what career paths people had taken at the age of 25.
When the girls’ top five job choices were broken down by ethnic group, doctor was the most popular profession for all but white girls who named secondary school teacher as their top choice and doctor in the top three. Becoming an actor or performer, a vet, nurse or entering the legal profession were also popular career choices among girls from all ethnic groups.
Among boys, white, mixed, black Caribbean and black African children listed sportsman as their top job, with Indian and Bangladeshi boys citing a career in the legal profession in first place and Pakistani boys wanting to be doctors.
Other popular career aspirations cited by boys across the ethnic groups were engineer, software developer, accountant, and actor or performer.
Professor Lucinda Platt, who co-wrote the report, told the BBC that by the time boys and girls reached their mid-teens, those from ethnic minority backgrounds were attracted to jobs with significantly higher pay than white children.
While white and Indian boys wanted to enter professions that would mean earning around £18 an hour, Bangladeshi, black African and Pakistani boys “end up aspiring to jobs with hourly wages of about £24”, she said.
Among girls, white teens were attracted to professions that would earn them an average of £16 an hour, while black Caribbean girls favoured professions earning an average of £19 an hour, rising to £20 for Indian and Pakistani girls and £21 for Bangladeshi and black African girls, Prof Platt said.
But while children from minority groups have high career aspirations, this does not always translate into occupational success by the time they reach 25.
Of the men and women in the Next Steps study who went to university, white men became significantly higher earners than people from ethnic minorities, researchers found,
By the age of 25, white men earned more per week on average than every other ethnic group except Bangladeshi men. And while Indian and black African women earned more per week than white women at the same age, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black Caribbean women earned less.
“It is difficult to know exactly why this is happening,” Prof Platt told the BBC. “Differences do not appear to be the result of different choices. Do they instead represent a lack of options and even racism in the workplace, as some studies have suggested?
“Whatever else is driving the differences in pay, it is clear that it doesn’t come down to a lack of ability, or ambition.”