This paper reviews evidence on young people in Europe and the US making the transition from school-to-work before and after the 2008 Great Recession. Taking a macro-level perspective, similarities and differences in education and employment experiences across different European countries are described, considering the role of different institutional support systems in ‘scaffolding’ young people's transitions to independence. It is argued that the 2008 financial crisis brought with it reduced employment opportunities for young people and accelerated pre-existing trends towards prolonged education participation and precarious employment. There are, however, considerable variations across different countries, highlighting the role of social institutions in supporting young people during the school-to-work transition. Transition systems that created bridges between education and employment are associated with lower national levels of youth unemployment, while young people coming of age in less-protective transition regimes suffered highest levels of youth unemployment, high levels of temporary employment and not being in education, employment or training (NEET).