Misalignment of educational and career goals (i.e., educational aspirations expressed are inadequate for attaining one’s desired occupation) is associated with lower educational attainment and a lack of college readiness, and may contribute to persistent educational and employment disparities. Drawing on data from 249 sixth graders in low-income schools, this research examines misalignment between educational and career aspirations across racial and ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Findings indicate that students in low-income schools aspire to middle and upper middle class careers, but sometimes lack an understanding of the educational degrees required to achieve their goals. Latinos are significantly more likely than other groups to report misaligned aspirations, as are students in the free and reduced lunch program and those without a college-educated parent. Consequently, early gaps in misaligned career and educational goals for disadvantaged students may set them on a trajectory that perpetuates educational and occupational inequalities in this population. We discuss the programmatic implications of these findings in light of the elevated college and career planning needs of students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

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Published in Social Sciences, v. 5, issue 3, 35, p. 1-10.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was funded by a National Center for Research Resources Science Education Partnership Award (R25 RR023304; PI Leukefeld).

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