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Quality of life, quality of business, and destinations of recent graduates: fields of study matter

One of the main challenges facing non-metropolitan regions is the attraction and retention of highly-educated young people. A loss of the brightest can lead to reduced business creation, innovation, growth and community well-being in such regions. We use rich longitudinal microdata from New Zealand to analyse the determinants and geography of the choice of destination of recent university and polytechnic graduates 2 years and 4 years after graduation. Rather than considering a range of location-specific consumption and production amenities, we assume spatial equilibrium and calculate, following Chen and Rosenthal (J Urban Econ 64:519–537, 2008), ‘quality of life’ and ‘quality of business’ indicators for urban areas that encompass all amenities that are utility and/or productivity enhancing (or reducing, in the case of disamenities). Specifically, we test whether students locate in places that are regarded as good to live or good to do business; and how this differs by field of study. Our estimates are conditional on students’ prior school (home) location and the location of their higher education institution. We find that graduates are attracted to locate in urban places that have high quality production amenities. High quality consumption amenities have heterogeneous effects on the location choice of students. Creative arts and commerce graduates are relatively more likely to locate in places that are attractive to business, consistent with a symbiosis between bohemians and business. Decision makers can leverage their existing local strengths, in terms of production and/or consumption amenities, to act as drawcards for, or to retain, recent graduates in specific fields.
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