This paper aims to examine gender and cohort differences in life-course occupational mobility in Britain and examine the strength of the effects of career entry at transition from school to work on subsequent upward or downward mobility. Does a ‘bad start’ in working life typically result in being trapped at the bottom tier of the occupational hierarchy or can it represent a stepping-stone towards more rewarding positions? Are there any gender differences in the effects of low entry occupations on subsequent careers? If so, are these differences stable or changing over time? Using large-scale data from the National Child Development Study and the British Cohort Study, we investigate individuals’ occupational careers between the ages of 16 and 34 using an occupational scale based on the hourly average earnings of full-time workers. Although women’s and men’s career patterns in Britain have become more similar over time, women face the greatest and growing hindrance to career advancement from the low quality entry jobs. Entering at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy is more likely to represents a trap for women, while for men it is rather a stepping-stone to more favourable positions
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