Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 1156–1175 | Cite as

Does Living Closer to a University Increase Educational Attainment? A Longitudinal Study of Aspirations, University Entry, and Elite University Enrolment of Australian Youth

  • Philip D. ParkerEmail author
  • John Jerrim
  • Jake Anders
  • Thomas Astell-Burt
Empirical Research


Geography remains a critical factor that shapes the development of aspirations, attainment, and choice in young people. We focus on the role of geography on university entry and aspirations due to the increasing requirement in society for a higher education qualification for access to prestigious positions in society. Using a large representative longitudinal database (N = 11,999; 50 % male; 27 % provincial or rural; 2 % Indigenous) of Australia youth we explore the association between distance to a university campus and the critical attainment outcomes of university entry and enrolment in an elite university as well as critical predictors of these outcomes in access to information resources (i.e., university outreach programs) and university aspirations. In doing so, we provide new insight into distance effects, and the extent that these are due to selection, cost, and community influence. Our findings suggest that distance is significantly associated with both university expectations and entrance, with an especially large impact upon young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. However, we also find little evidence that distance is related to attending a university led information session. Our conclusion is that distance effects cannot be fully explained by selection in terms of academic achievement and socioeconomic status, and that anticipatory decisions and costs are the most likely drivers of the distance effect.


Distance effects University aspirations University entry Institution choice 



This research was partially funded by the Australian Research Council (DE140100080), the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Jacobs Foundation.

Author’s Contribution

PP conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; JJ participated in the design and interpretation of the data and helped draft the manuscript; JA participated in the design and helped draft the manuscript; TAB constructed the distance measures, contributed to the design and drafting of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip D. Parker
    • 1
    Email author
  • John Jerrim
    • 2
  • Jake Anders
    • 3
  • Thomas Astell-Burt
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Positive Psychology and Education, Faculty of Health SciencesAustralian Catholic UniversityStrathfieldAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of EducationUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.National Institute of Economic and Social ResearchLondonUK
  4. 4.School of Science and HealthWestern Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.School of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland, UK

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