Topic: Sentimental or practical? Young university graduates’ motivations to live in rural areas in Poland
Keywords: young adults, university graduates, motivations to live in the countryside, remote rural areas
From the historical perspective, after year 1989 Polish rural areas and their inhabitants entered the period of significant social, economic and cultural changes, including disagrarization of employment and significant improvement of basic local infrastructure. Apart from that, since 2000, we observe in Poland a positive balance of migration from cities to villages. Still, does it mean that rural areas could be perceived by younger generations, especially highly educated ones, as an attractive place to live? Traditionally, those young people, who decided to study, were convinced that only the city can provide them with satisfactory life opportunities. However, the recent studies show that about 30.0% of university graduates of rural origin decide to settle in their villages. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask what happens to those highly educated young adults who decide to live in rural areas: why they made such choice and what are its implications for young people themselves and their rural communities. The paper is based on 92 in-depth interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with young adults (aged 25-34) with the university degree who live in 10 rural municipalities scattered around different regions of Poland. The municipalities selected for the study are located at some serious distance from the largest urban centers and usually no less than 80 km from middle-sized cities. In result, the presented research focuses on more remote rural areas, not on those adjacent to larger cities which are slowly turning into suburbs. The outcomes show that the interviewees’ motivations for living in rural areas are often complex and based on a mixture of emotional reasons (e.g. a strong attachment to the place), as well as practical ones (e.g. better housing opportunities than in the city). Fuzzy cluster analysis enabled to divide the interviewees into three groups according to their dominant motivation to live in the countryside: 1) “partner-oriented” type, 2) “community-oriented” type and 3) “job-oriented” type. The study shows that each type is characterized by different levels of the interviewees’ community engagement and their future plans about leaving or staying in the countryside. Relationships between the distinguished types and the interviewees’ socio-demographic characteristics, as well as their educational and professional choices are also analyzed.