Distance Matters: Geographic Accessibility and Higher Education Participation Decisions

There is extensive evidence that substantial inequalities persist in relation to higher education participation and outcomes in many countries. One potential barrier to participation is geographic accessibility, often measured by travel distance, which can lead to a wide range of direct and indirect costs. These costs may impact not only the decision to participate in higher education, but also where and what to study. Importantly, they generally tend to be more salient for students from poorer backgrounds. As a result, distance deterrent effects may exacerbate inequalities in educational outcomes. They can also result in an inefficient allocation of resources, if those facing higher costs have higher potential gains from education. Within this context, this research examined the theoretical and empirical economics literature on the role and importance of geographic accessibility for decisions relating to higher education participation.

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