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Proximity, prosperity, and participation: Examining access to postsecondary education among youth in Canada’s provincial north

Despite increased proportions of students attending some form of postsecondary education (PSE), some social groups continue to face significant barriers and encounter difficulties making the transition. Previous research suggests that proximity to postsecondary institutions may have a positive impact on PSE participation rates, even more so for lower- and middle-income families. We know comparatively less, however, about how these processes operate for social groups in varied social and economic contexts. In Canada, many highly ranked, prestigious universities and colleges (with greater arrays of fields) tend to be clustered in large, urban centers, and in the southernmost parts of Canadian provinces, but it is not clear whether these differences impact PSE outcomes. Drawing on cycles 1 to 4 of Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey (YITS−Cohort A), our findings reveal that individuals from the northernmost parts of Canadian provinces do experience difficulties accessing various types of PSE (and in the timing of doing so). Moreover, our results suggest that much of these location effects are attributable to not only economic differences in terms of parental income but also cultural and dispositional differences related to parental education and their aspirations for their children’s education.