AgriFood-WP 2017:4

Staying or leaving? – The effects of regional universities on educational choices and rural depopulation

Making higher education more available by establishing regional universities might limit the depopulation of rural areas. However, individuals with a higher education are more likely to migrate after their studies. Consequently, the effect of regional universities on the rural population is uncertain.

We explored this issue in a quasi-experiment arising due to a sudden reduction in the number of student places at a regional university in northern Sweden, in 1998. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we found that the reduction in student places affected educational choices and individuals’ long-term propensity to migrate.

We also found that women and men responded differently. Women chose a more distant university and were more likely to migrate from their rural home region, while men chose not to study and their likelihood of migration was unaffected. Whereas education in general increases depopulation, individuals studying closer to home is less likely to leave rural areas.