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Location, location, location: Examining the rural-urban skills gap in Canada

The elevated demands of the new knowledge economy pose particular challenges to rural and northern regions in Canada, long acknowledged by policymakers to suffer from acute human capital deficits. Rural residents obtain lower levels of education than their urban counterparts and those that do obtain post-secondary training often migrate to urban regions offering abundant employment opportunities and higher wages. Despite an emerging consensus around over skill deficits across rural regions, Canadian researchers have yet to systematically explore contemporary rural-urban differences in human capital using refined measures of literacy and numeracy skills. We ameliorate this deficiency by mapping rural-urban disparities in skills across the working age population (16–65) using Statistics Canada’s 2012 Longitudinal International Study of Adults (LISA). Our results indicate that residents from smaller population centers and rural areas within Canada show significantly lower skills proficiencies. These differences across location of residence shrink considerably when controlling for education level, underscoring the need to enhance post-secondary access in rural areas.