Small School Closures in Rural Areas—The Beginning or the End of a Downward Spiral? Some Evidence from Austria

Publication: Chapter in book/Conference proceedingChapter in edited volume


Schoolclosuresinruralareasareespeciallyrelevantbecauseschoolsare assumed to fulfil not only educational but also social functions for the local com- munity. Critics of school closures maintain that the closure of the last local school might induce an overall negative development of the affected municipality. This article explores the demographic, economic, and, social trends in Austrian municipalities where at least one primary school was closed down. Two groups of municipalities are compared: those that had lost their last school and those that still had a school left within their municipal borders but closed a local village school. Altogether, eleven municipalities in four Austrian regions were included in the study. The results show that the municipalities follow different coping strategies concerning the former school building: those with no school left tended to retain ownership, whereas those with still one municipal school open were inclined to sell the former school building(s). However both groups tried to find ways to preserve the public character of the building. The demographic and economic trends fol- lowing the school closure differ. In most of the municipalities, the decrease in the number of inhabitants was due mainly to outmigration rather than to falling numbers of births. Economic developments did not reflect the downward movement in the population but improved in most municipalities of the sample. Finally, the analyses show that a high proportion working in the agricultural sector, especially in remote areas, seems to have a positive impact on the demographic and economic trends in the municipality and mitigates possible negative effects of school closure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in the Sociology of Population. International Perspectives
Editors Jon Anson, Walter Bartl, Andrzej Kulczycki
Place of PublicationChan
Pages275 - 300
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-94868-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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