The gendered district effect: psychosocial reasons why girls wish to leave their rural communities
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The rural youth exodus has mostly been explained with the pull of the city. In this mixed-method study, we explore whether young people also experience a push to leave the rural community due to a lack of psychosocial thriving. The quantitative analysis of the Ungdata-survey among young people aged 13–16 years (n = 141,058) shows that girls imagine leaving more than boys, and also fare worse on many indicators for psychosocial well-being. There is a linear decline in girls’ psychosocial well-being the less centrally they live. We call this the gendered district effect. Contrary to expectations, we find that rural girls without higher education aspirations are those who least want to stay in the rural community. It is likely that a lower degree of psychosocial well- being is part of the reason that more girls in rural areas wish to leave their homeplace. The qualitative analysis of the rural village of Smallville (n = 21) explores this, showing that girls commonly wanted to leave to escape a toxic social environment, which also offered few status-filled work opportunities in the village. The girls were more affected by the rural community’s restricting social norms, leaving girls with poor self-images and the wish to leave.