Life Chances is a unique longitudinal study that examines how family income, social class, ethnicity and gender affect the lives of individuals.

The study began in inner Melbourne in 1990 with 167 babies and their parents. The families were from both high and low income groups and from a range of ethnic backgrounds.

Each wave of the study has focused on different issues. See the overview to 2013

The latest published report is Getting to work from Stage 11 (read more below).

Funding has been received from government and charitable sources. The recent stages have received generous support from the Prue Myer Fund, the Bokhara Foundation, the Myer Foundation, the estate of SR Jope, the Hector Waldron Pride Charitable Trust managed by ANZ Trustees, the JM Harrison Charitable Trust and the Edith Kemp Memorial Trust Fund administered by Equity Trustees.

For more information about the Life Chances study, contact Dina Bowman dbowman(at) 

Economic security

Stage 12 (29 to 30-year-olds)

Stage 12 of the Life Chances study focuses on economic security and life chances as the participants approach 30.

This stage is designed  in two parts: a comprehensive online survey distributed to all participants, and in-depth interviews with a selection of participants.

The survey asks about work, financial circumstances, housing, and participants’ perceptions about elements of their overall health and wellbeing, their community and their social life. Many of the questions will mirror those asked in the HILDA Survey and used in the Social Exclusion Monitor. This will help us add a broader, national context to the rich, detailed information from the study group.

The interviews will examine issues identified in the survey in more detail.

Education and employment pathways

Stage 11 (24 to 28-year-olds)

Stage 11 of Life Chances focuses on young people's experiences of post-compulsory education and training and the labour market. Preliminary findings highlight the key role that family income and gender play in the length and quality of the transition from school to regular or satisfactory employment.

Publications and presentations

Dina Bowman, Malita Allan and Iris Levin 2019, Getting to work: insights about the transition from education to employment from the Life Chances Study, Stage 11 (PDF, 327 KB)

Life chances at 27 (video, 5 minutes)

Malita Allan and Dina Bowman 2018, The young adults: life chances at age 24 (PDF, 186 KB)

Dina Bowman, Iris Levin and Malita Allan 2016, ‘Not sure if it’s a waste of time or not’: education, employment and equity – insights from the Life Chances Study, The Australian Sociological Association National Conference, Melbourne, 28 November–1 December.

Dina Bowman and Malita Allan 2016, ‘It’s all just luck really’: understanding young people’s education and employment pathways – insights from the Life Chances Study, Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, Melbourne, 6–8 July.

Dina Bowman and Malita Allan 2015, Developing a typology of youth transitions, The Australian Sociological Association National Conference, Cairns, 23–26 November.

Dina Bowman and Malita Allan 2015, Class matters? Examining the mediating effects of socio-economic background on young people's education and employment pathways, Australian Social Policy Conference, UNSW, 28–30 September.

Stage 10 (21-year-olds)

Stage 10 examined the experiences of young people at age 21 in the context of social and economic changes that have made the transition from school to work more complex. While most of the 21-year-olds shared a goal of full-time employment, only 27 per cent had full-time jobs; most were still studying or looking for work. For many young people the transition to full-time work is likely to be prolonged. However, in this study those from higher income families with strong social networks were more able to exercise choice and flexibility. For other 21-year-olds, their pathways were more precarious, as plans were made in ‘risky’ contexts.


Janet Taylor, Joseph Borlagdan and Malita Allan 2012, Turning 21: life chances and uncertain transitions (PDF, 560 KB) Summary (PDF, 97 KB)

Malita Allan and Janet Taylor 2012, Am I an adult at 21?  (PDF, 67 KB) presentation to Australian Institute of family Studies Conference, Melbourne, 25–27 July.

Janet Taylor 2011, Can life stories inform policy in a complex world?  (PDF, 75 KB) presentation to Australian Social Policy Conference, Sydney, 6–8 July.

Stage 9 (18-year-olds)

Stage 9 examined the pathways and plans from finishing school to further education, training and employment of 18-year-olds from different income groups. The findings showed correlations between income group and the completion of Year 12 VCE as well as tertiary entry (ENTER) scores. A quarter of those from low-income families had left school early, but none from high-income families. For those who completed VCE, there was a clear relationship between their scores and their proposed future activities. The activities of those who left school before completing Year 12 included studying at TAFE, undertaking apprenticeships and/or working part or full-time. Some were settled, but others had tried various courses and jobs unsuccessfully and had had long periods of unemployment.


Janet Taylor and Nina Gee 2010, Turning 18: pathways and plans (PDF, 444 KB) Turning 18 summary (PDF, 137 KB)

Stage 8½ (17-year-olds)

Stage 8½ explored the stories of the eight young people in the study who had left school aged 14 to 16. First-hand accounts of their complex lives as they considered employment, training and other facets of their future were used to recommend policies around school retention, post-school training, youth employment and assistance to ensure that young people are not excluded from appropriate opportunities.


Janet Taylor 2009, Stories of early school leaving: pointers for policy and practice (PDF, 329 KB)

Sections of this report may also be downloaded separately:

  • Part 1 of Stories of early school leaving (PDF, 178 KB) includes the method, findings, discussion and references. 
  • Part 2 of Stories of early school leaving (PDF file, 265 KB) presents the eight young people's stories at length.

School years

Stage 8 (16-year-olds)

Stage 8 of the Life Chances Study explored the 16-year-olds' engagement with school and work and their future plans. Their survey responses confirmed the continuity and layering of disadvantage: for example, those from low-income families with parents with limited education are more likely than their affluent peers to leave school early and less likely to plan university careers.


Janet Taylor and Lucy Nelms 2008, Life chances at 16: Life Chances Study stage 8 (PDF, 412 KB)

Janet Taylor and Lucy Nelms 2008, School engagement and life chances at 15 & 16 (PDF, 242 KB)

Stage 7 (15-year-olds)

Stage 7 explored school engagement and transition issues at the age of 15 and found that young people’s family backgrounds influenced school engagement.  This study highlighted important ways in which schools and education policy makers could work to increase that engagement.


Janet Taylor and Lucy Nelms 2006, School engagement and life chances: 15 year olds in transition (PDF, 352 KB)

Stage 6 (11 and 12-year-olds)

Stage 6 focused on the children’s progress in school and issues of social exclusion and educational advantage or disadvantage as they were completing primary school. The study included, for the first time, the children’s own perspectives on their lives. Some children experienced the impacts of financial hardship. Neither the ‘safety net’ of social security payments nor the alternative of low-wage work provided sufficient family income for these children to participate fully in their schooling or in the social world beyond.


Janet Taylor and Alex Fraser 2003, Eleven plus: life chances and family income (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Janet Taylor and Alex Fraser 2003, Eleven plus summary (PDF, 70 KB)

Stage 5 (6-year-olds)

Stage 5 examined how changing family circumstances affected children’s health, development and progress in school.


Janet Taylor and Fiona Macdonald 1998, Life at six: life chances and beginning school (PDF, 7.6 MB)

Early years

Stages 1–4 of the Life Chances study examined services for mothers, babies and infants, as well as exploring the parents’ employment and the experiences of migrants as parents. Key reports include:

Janet Taylor 1997, Kids and kindergarten: access to preschool in Victoria (PDF, 3 MB)

Tim Gilley and Janet Taylor 1995, Unequal lives? Low income and the life chances of three year olds (PDF, 6.6 MB)

Tim Gilley 1994 Beyond the city: access to services for mothers and babies (PDF, 2.4 MB)

Tim Gilley 1993, What chance a job? Employment of parents with young children (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Tim Gilley 1993, Access for growth: services for mothers and babies (PDF, 3.4 MB)

(For details of these earlier printed Life Chances reports, see the Brotherhood’s library catalogue)


Two early reports highlighted the situation of the children of migrants:

Janet Taylor and Helen MacDonald 1992, Children of immigrants: issues of poverty and disadvantage (PDF, 5 MB), Bureau of Immigration Research, AGPS, Canberra.

Janet Taylor and Helen MacDonald 1994, Disadvantage and children of immigrants: a longitudinal study (PDF, 6 MB), Bureau of Immigration and Population Research, AGPS, Canberra.



Janet Taylor 2014, Life chances: stories of growing up in Australia, Federation Press, Annandale, NSW. Order from Federation Press

This book presents the real life stories of five young people from the Life Chances study, who all seemed to be flourishing at age 21 but who had had very different life experiences along the way.

Janet Taylor and Malita Allan 2013, Now we are 21: an overview of the longitudinal Life Chances Study (PDF, 506 KB)

This paper outlines the published findings of ten stages of the Life Chances study. It summarises the topics covered over 21 years and points to some policy implications.


The Life Chances: turning 13, turning 18 DVD features participants in the Life Chances study. They reflect on their lives, hopes and plans for the future as they turn 13 and again at 18. This is a valuable audio-visual resource for educators, policy makers, students, researchers, service providers and others interested in the experiences of young people from diverse backgrounds growing up in Australia.

To purchase a copy of the DVD, contact the distributors by email: info(at)

For more information about the Life Chances study, contact Dina Bowman dbowman(at)

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