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

  • Martin Hällsten
  • Christofer Edling
  • Jens Rydgren
Publishing year: 2019-03
Language: English
Publication/Series: PLoS ONE
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Public Library of Science

Abstract english

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.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Higher education
  • Health behaviour
  • Cultural identity
  • Heavy Metal
  • Sweden


  • ISSN: 1932-6203
Christofer Edling
E-mail: christofer [dot] edling [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se


Faculty of Social Sciences

+46 46 222 88 62



Centre for Economic Demography




+46 46 222 88 62




I earned my PhD from Stockholm University in 1999. Between 2002 and 2005 I was Torgny Segerstedt Pro Futura Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University. I received my Docent-title in 2003, and was appointed Associate Professor at Stockholm University in 2004. From 2006 to 2008 I was Head of the Department of Sociology at Stockholm university. Before coming to Lund in 2012 I served as Full Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. I have been a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2004/05) and Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (2013).

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences