School’s out forever? Heavy metal preferences and higher education

Martin Hällsten, Christofer Edling, Jens Rydgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cultural behaviors are theoretically linked to future life chances but empirical literature is scant. We use heavy metal as an example of cultural identities due to its high salience. We first assess the social morphology of metal preferences in terms of socio-economic and socio-structural positions, and then asses the short term outcomes of being a heavy metal fan on education and health behaviors.

The analysis was based on a representative random stratified sample of 23-year-olds of native Swedish, Iranian, and Yugoslavian background in contemporary Sweden (n = 2,232). Linear probability models with multiple imputation were used to calculate preferences for metal music and the association of metal preferences with subsequent outcomes.

In contrast to many prior studies, we find that the preference for heavy metal is not structured by social background or neighborhood context in Swedish adolescents. Poor school grades tend to make them more prone to like metal, but net of previous grades, social background, personality, personal network, and neighborhood characteristics, metal fans have substantially lower transition rates into higher education.

The study suggest that metal preferences appears rather unsystematically with few important predictors, and is linked to lower education attainments in the short run. While these findings are specific to heavy metal as a certain type of culture and to Swedish adolescents, we suggest that they are indicative of how cultural consumption may play a role for life-chances.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213716
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Mar

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • Higher education
  • Health behaviour
  • Cultural identity
  • Heavy Metal
  • Sweden


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