Are neighbourhood characteristics important in predicting the post-school destinations of young Australians?


Students with similar individual and parental characteristics attending the same school, but living in neighbourhoods with different levels of socioeconomic status, are likely to have similar educational outcomes.

About the research: While much research has been conducted on the influence of individual and family characteristics on social exclusion, very little has examined the role of community and neighbourhood factors. This project is considering the differences in education and training outcomes in areas of social advantage by comparison with areas of social disadvantage, taking the contribution of these neighbourhood factors into account. This report contains the results of the quantitative aspect of the study, using data on individuals and their families from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the 2006 census. A second part to the project is a qualitative study exploring the influence of access to high-quality education and training and other community infrastructure on education and training outcomes. The results of this study, in which regions in Victoria and South Australia are compared, will be available in 2014. This work is one of three projects undertaken by the Centre for the Economics of Education and Training (CEET) at Monash University, as part of its three-year (2011—13) research partnership with the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) exploring the geographical dimensions of social inclusion and vocational education and training (VET) in Australia.

Key messages

  • The socioeconomic status of a neighbourhood is an important characteristic in explaining variations in student outcomes, but residential turnover, the composition of households and the multicultural nature of the neighbourhood also play a role.
  • The characteristics of schools make an important difference, but in reality data for many of these (for example, school leadership and teacher quality) are either not readily available or the characteristics are not easily measurable. The effects of a neighbourhood are sometimes difficult to separate from the impacts of schooling because of the correlation between the two.

The authors argue for caution when inferring the significance of the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and student outcomes if the model estimating such a relationship does not contain the appropriate controls for school effects.

Prior aspirations are important in predicting the final post-school destinations of young people. The results suggest that mentoring efforts that help to shape the aspirations of young people at an early age could have a high payoff, in terms of their post-school outcomes.

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