Educational Pathways of Youth in Ontario Factors Impacting Educational Pathways

Research Summary:

Parental Education, Grades and Social Relationships Remain Strongest Predictors of Postsecondary Participation

Youth with highly educated parents, strong overall grades and an academically engaged social network are the most likely to pursue college or university according to a new collaborative report from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

The report  Educational Pathways of Youth in Ontario: Factors Impacting Educational Pathways  also found that Ontario students were more likely to pursue postsecondary education (PSE) than students in the rest of Canada. These findings support the findings of a recent HEQCO commissioned study Access to Postsecondary Education: How Ontario Compares.

Project Description

The report is based on data collected from the Youth in Transitions Survey (YITS-A), which collects information tracking the educational pathways of students beginning at age 15. The data in this report followed the students through age 21, collected between 2000 and 2006. The report examined gender, parental influences, geography, language, academic preparation and youth/community engagement and participation.


Consistent with other HEQCO research using YITS data, the report finds that parental education is a far more significant predictor than family income, which is commonly considered to be a major influencer on PSE participation. Children of highly educated parents are more likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps, completing their own college or university education. The odds of a student in Ontario attending PSE when at least one parent had a university degree are double that of a student whose parents had a high school diploma or less.

Academic performance is a clear indicator of PSE participation. High school students averaging grades between 90 and 100 per cent went on to PSE at a rate ten times higher than youth averaging 70 to 79 per cent.

The academic engagement of a student’s social circle was also a significant factor. The odds of going to college or university for a youth who had friends drop out of high school were 48 per cent lower than youth who had no friends drop out. Similarly, students who drop out and return to high school saw 58 per cent lower participation in PSE.

Language of study also appeared to be a significant factor. Ontario youth who graduated from the Francophone language system were twice as likely to attend PSE as students from the Anglophone system.​