The Rural-Urban Divide in Transitions to Higher Education in Chile

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Luis Herskovic
Josefina Silva


This study uses administrative student data from Chile to explore the transitions of urban and rural students to higher education. We find that urban students are more likely to register to take university entrance exams than rural students. Among those who do take the exams, urban students perform significantly better. Even though both groups of students enroll in higher education in similar proportions, urban students are more likely to enroll in universities, whereas rural students are more likely to enroll in technical education. We also explore differences in major choices for students who enroll in higher education and find that rural students are more likely to enroll in fields related to health, education, and agriculture, while they are less likely to enroll in social sciences or the humanities. Finally, both groups are as likely to choose STEM fields when enrolling in higher education. Our findings suggest that although rural students have similar access to higher education as their urban counterparts, they face different challenges, especially related to standardized tests, which have an impact when choosing which type of higher education institution to enroll in.


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