This is an outdated version published on 09-12-2017. Read the most recent version.

‘No One Cares In The City’: How Young People’s Gendered Perceptions Of The Country And The City Shape Their Educational Decision Making


  • Merete Schmidt UTAS



educational choice, rural youth, early school leaving, identity, habitus


This paper provides an in-depth analysis of a group of young rural men’s and women’s understandings of ‘the city’ and ‘the country’, and the relationship between this and their educational decision making. The analysis adds to a growing body of literature on young rural people’s experiences and the emerging research on education in a rural context. Drawing on participant observation and interviews with a group of Grade 10 students in a rural Tasmanian high school, I argue that the everyday life of the young respondents is characterised by a high degree of ambivalence towards urban living which sits at the heart of their educational choices. They depicted living in a small rural town as involving a daily trade-off between a welcome familiarity and a problematic lack of privacy. Their perception of the city was that this relationship would be reversed, and that while they might be free from the constraint of everyone knowing your business, they would struggle to negotiate the alien environment. Using Simmel’s (1950) ideas on how rural and urban environments produce different worldviews as well as Bourdieu’s (1990) concept of habitus, this analysis captures this ambivalence and the sense of risk involved in exchanging the known difficulties of the town for the unknown risks of the city. This sense of the city as ‘too risky’ informed many of the participants’ decisions to ‘not make a choice’ and remain in their familiar environment rather than moving to the city to continue their education and risk failure. The analysis also draws on Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital and Connell’s (2005) theory of hegemonic masculinity to emphasise that although the young people shared common experiences, these were mediated by aspects of cultural knowledge and gender relations.

Author Biography

Merete Schmidt, UTAS

Lecturer in Sociology


Abbott-Chapman, J. & Kilpatrick, S. (2001). Improving post-school outcomes for rural students. Australian Journal of Education, 45(1), 35-47.

Adkins, L., & Skeggs, B. (2004). Feminism after Bourdieu. Oxford: Blackwell.

Alloway, N., and Dalley-Trim, L. (2009). ‘High and dry’ in rural Australia: obstacles to student aspirations and expectations. Rural Society, 19(1), 49-59.

Alston, M., & Kent, J. (2009). Generation X-pendable: The social exclusion of rural and remote young people. Journal of Sociology 45, 89-107.

Australian Council for Educational Research. (2016). Review of Years 9-12. Melbourne: ACER

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013). National Report on Schooling. Part 9, Additional Statistics. Sydney

Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society. London: Sage.

Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. (1990 [1977]). Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage.

Bourke, L., & Geldens, P.M. (2007). Subjective wellbeing and its meaning for young people in a rural Australian centre. Social Indicators Research 82, 165-187.

Brotherhood of St Laurence. (2016). Australia’s Youth Unemployment Hotspots. Victoria: Brotherhood of St. Laurence

Connell, R.W. (2005). Masculinity. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Corbett, M. (2013). ‘I’m going to make sure I’m ready before I leave’: The complexity of educational and mobility decision-making in a Canadian coastal community. Journal of Rural Studies, 32, 275-282.

Corbett, M. (2007). Learning to Leave: The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community. Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Press.
Cuervo, H., & Wyn, J. (2017). A Longitudinal Analysis of Belonging: Temporal, Performative and Relational Practices by Young People in Rural Australia. Young, 25(3), 1–16.

Cuervo, H., & Wyn, J. (2012). Young People Making It Work: Continuity and Change in Rural Places. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Curtis, D., & McMillan, J. (2008). School Non-completers: Profiles and Initial Destinations. Melbourne: Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth.

Denzin, N.K., & Lincoln, Y.S. (2003). The Landscape of Qualitative Research. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dunkley, C. M. (2004). Risky Geographies: teens, gender, and the rural landscape in North America. Gender, Place and Culture, 11(4), 559-79.

Fabianson, C. (2006). Being young in rural settings: young people’s everyday community affiliations and trepidations. Rural Society, 16(1), 46-59.

Farrugia, D. (2014). Towards a spatialized youth sociology: the rural and the urban in times of change. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(3), 293-307.

Farrugia, D., Smyth, J., & Harrison, T. (2014). Emplacing young people in an Australian rural community: an extraverted sense of place in times of change. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(9), 1152-1167.

Fildes, J., Robbins, A., Cave, L., Perrens, B., & Wearring, A. (2014). Mission Australia’s 2014 Youth Survey Report. Sydney: Mission Australia.

Foundation for young Australians. (2012). How Young People are Faring in the Transition from School to Work. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity.

Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1983). Ethnography: Principles in Practice. London: Rutledge.

Kenway, J., Kraack, A., & Hickey-Moody, A. (2006). Masculinity beyond the Metropolis. New York: Palgrave McMillan.

Leyshon, M. (2008). The betweennness of being a rural youth: inclusive and exclusive lifestyles. Social and Cultural Geography, 9(1), 1-26.

Marks, G., & McMillan, J. (2001). Early school leavers: who are they, why do they leave, and what are the consequences?. Understanding Youth Pathways: Research Conference 2001, Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Massey, D. (1991). A global sense of place. Marxism Today, 38, 24-29.

McLeod J. (2009). Youth studies, comparative inquiry, and the local/global problematic. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 31(4), 270–292.

McLeod, J., & Yates, L. (2006). Making Modern Lives: Subjectivity, Schooling and Social Change. Albany: State of New York Press.

Schippers, M. (2007). Recovering the feminine other: Masculinity, femininity, and gender hegemony. Theory and Society, 36, 85-102.

Schultz. J. (2013). Oscillating Wildly. Griffith Review 39, 7-8.

Simmel, G. (1950). The metropolis and mental life. In Wolf, K.H. (ed.) (1964). The Sociology of Georg Simmel. New York: Free Press, chapter 4, 409-424.

Taylor, J., & Allen, M. (2013). Now we are 21. An overview of the longitudinal Life Chances Study. Victoria: Brotherhood of St. Laurence.

Tönnies, F. (1957). Community and Society (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft). East Lansing: Michigan University Press.

Tucker, F. (2003). Sameness or difference: Exploring girls’ use of recreational spaces. Children’s Geographies, 1(1), 111-24.

Tucker, F., & Mathews, H. (2001). ‘They don’t like girls hanging around there’: conflicts over recreational space in rural Northamptonshire. Area, 33(2), 161-8.

Wierenga, A. (2009). Young People Making a Life. Basingstoke, England/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wierenga, A. (2011). Transitions, local culture and human dignity: rural young men in a changing world. Journal of Sociology, 47(4), 371-387.





How to Cite

Schmidt, M. (2017). ‘No One Cares In The City’: How Young People’s Gendered Perceptions Of The Country And The City Shape Their Educational Decision Making. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(3), 25–38.