The Geography of Educational Opportunity: School Proximity and College Attendance in Contemporary China
Jin Jiang, Hong Kong Institute of Education
Tony Tam, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Recent literature has demonstrated that geographic proximity of college (such as the number of colleges within commuting distance) enhances college attendance in the United States (College Proximity Hypothesis). But the causal role of proximity is crucially shaped by the educational institution and family logic of schooling. We thus focus on the questions which type of school proximity matters and why. Our analysis data are created by combining (1) official statistics for the spatial distribution of schools, and (2) individual-level data from the 2012 Chinese Labor Dynamic Survey. The results provide strong evidence for the crucial role of proximity to upper secondary schools, viz. the gateway to college—Gateway Access Hypothesis. Gateway proximity, not college proximity, enhances college attendance. This finding contrasts starkly with the focus on college proximity by the recent U.S. literature on the geography of access to higher education.