Britain Thinks: (Ex)aspiration nation - what do our young people really want?

Deborah Mattinson

Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron shared his views on youth aspiration. "If you ask children in the UK…" he observed, "…all they want to be is pop stars and footballers."

Well, at BritainThinks, we really have asked them. In collaboration with youth specialist field agency ResearchBods, we interviewed 679 young people aged between 14 and 16, and 527 parents of kids the same age. We also ran focus groups in London, Coventry and Leeds to dig a bit deeper. The results may surprise Mr Cameron.

We learned that this cohort of young people are more serious, conscientious and industrious than the Prime Minister would have us believe. Their aspirations seem grounded and reasonable. Seventy per cent want 'a job they love'; 56 per cent want to be married/in a stable relationship/ to have a family with kids; and 54 per cent want to move out of the parental home, preferably owning their own. By contrast, just six per cent want to be famous or 'on the telly', five per cent aspire to being rich enough not to have to work, and a paltry one per cent set their goal as 'owning designer brands'. We asked them to bring along a photograph of their 'most wanted' object to our focus groups. Most brought a picture of a modest semi-detached home.