Primary school closures and population development - is school vitality an investment in the attractiveness of the (rural) communities or not?
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CitationLehtonen, Olli. (2021). Primary school closures and population development - is school vitality an investment in the attractiveness of the (rural) communities or not?. Journal of rural studies, 82, 138-147. 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2021.01.011.
Over the last two decades, many municipalities in Finland have attempted to cut costs by closing small schools. In particular, rural schools with low enrolment have been the target of these savings. The main argument has been that out-migration and depopulation require adjustments to public infrastructure. This continuing tendency has raised many concerns about the effect of school closures on rural development, and remains a controversial issue in public debate. This paper examines the impacts of school closures on the population development of local communities using DID regression modelling combined with matching methods, focusing on the years 2010–2018. The results indicate that in Finland after school closure, the population of the surrounding community decreased more than before school closure. The increasing depopulation after a school closure means that school closures do not just raise questions about the individual school or the municipal school network, but more broadly about the vitality of the municipality and its development.