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Rural youth
Quality of life, civil participation and outlooks for a rural future

In this chapter we analyse and discuss rural youth’s views of quality of life, how rural youth’s participation in civil society differs from urban youth and rural adults, and what factors affect quality of life for young people across different rural contexts. By combining qualitative interviews and quantitative survey data on rural youth, we elaborate how (1) sociality and proximity and (2) perceptions of the rural are important aspects to understand what characterises and constitutes rural youth’s civil participation in different rural contexts. As rurality is multifaceted, we argue that quality of life in rural communities should be approached with a threefold conceptual architecture: as covering a material dimension, a social dimension, and a representational dimension. These dimensions, in isolation and in a trialectic manner, constitute, support and undermine young people’s quality of life and civil society participation in rural communities. Finally, we discuss how centre-periphery and settlement density constitute different frames for civil society participation. We argue that in order to support quality of life for rural youth, one needs to address rurality as a flow of socio-spatial situations affecting rural youth’s quality of life and their participation in civil society.

Introduction

As addressed by the other chapters in this section, the relationship between ‘civil society’ and ‘rural quality of life’ is complex. We analyse the quality of life and civil participation of Norwegian rural youth in the context of ageing rural demographics and the consequential shrinking rural populations, which is an overall European trend in the peripheries (Bock, 2016). In Norway, this trend is expected to continue (Leknes & Løkken, 2020) and create uneven futures in terms of access to public welfare and income/occupation opportunities (Frisvoll, 2020; NOU, 2020a, 2020b). In the rural periphery, public service provision is scaled back, centralised to regional centres, partly as a public sector response to future outlooks of shrinking public revenue and increasing public costs, and partly because of a demography with fewer children and young adults. While welfare services and work opportunities are important to people’s general well-being (and desire to stay), so is their perception of their material and social environments.

In this chapter we explore what rural young people focus on when describing what contributes to their quality of life, how rural youth’s participation in civil society differs from urban youth and rural adults, and more importantly, what enables/restricts civil society participation for young people across different rural contexts. We address this by (1) providing a relevant theoretical framework; (2) presenting updated insights into rural youth’s assessments of place qualities and aspects of quality of life and civil participation combined with existing literature on rural youth; and (3) discussing these insights in light of overall demographic and technological trends driving an increased diversity of geographic situations in rural Norway, and its possible effects on future quality of life in rural areas.

Background

Despite an active regional policy in Norway, the rural population has been shrinking for decades, a thinning accompanied by a reorganisation of services from outskirts to regional centres. Moreover, the anticipated demographic development implies a decline in the rural workforce (NOU, 2020a). Although the rural periphery is struggling measured in population figures, the periphery’s role in Norway’s economy is substantial, with regions outside Norway’s capital region dominating the per capita contribution to export revenue. Many regions in the periphery have a very low unemployment rate, and a key challenge is a lack of qualified and able workers (NOU, 2020a). Addressing these challenges has resulted in rural and regional Norway relying on international labour migration (cf. Rye & Slettebakk, 2020; Rye, 2018). The demographic outlook of an ageing population predicts an increased future labour need in the welfare services and possibly an increase in national competition for qualified personnel, likely amplifying the labour shortage in the peripheries (Frisvoll, 2020; NOU, 2020b), with a potential spill-over effect on service quality and life quality. A recent expert review argued that the future ambition of regional policy should be shifted towards goals more easily achieved for sustaining life quality, rather than sustaining population size (NOU, 2020b).

Demographic composition and demographic trends tie directly and indirectly to quality of life as they change material and social structures. For instance, the evacuation of services and social meeting spaces may be met by increased effort from civil society, as indicated by Blekesaune and Haugen’s (2018) finding of increased participation of voluntary activities by elders in rural communities compared to urban communities. Similarly, research by Haugen and Logstein (2016) on the civil sector’s role in the care for elders in rural municipalities in the periphery found that elders were volunteering to care for other elders. At least for the elder population this strategy seems to pay off, as elder people in rural communities report greater satisfaction with health and care services and a greater sense of connectedness with their community, than elder people in urban communities (Blekesaune & Haugen, 2018). Can we expect a similar turn to the civil sector for rural youth? Would this result in the same beneficial effect of greater connectedness with their local community, when we know that Norwegian youth are less involved in the civil sector and formalised voluntary activities than adults (cf. Fladmoe et al., 2018)?

Rural communities and quality of life

What constitutes quality of life is subjective. What thrills one person, puts another one off. Introducing a fuzzy concept, such as rurality, into the mix makes the challenge complete. What constitutes quality of life in rural communities, and what aspects of rurality undermine or support quality of life? In bridging the concepts of rural communities, quality of life and civil society, we need to look at whether rural communities could be suitable arenas for civil participation, social support, sense of belonging and safety, and other aspects typically associated with quality of life, and we need to address what rural is.

A central starting point in discussing rural communities is the different forms of social associations that occur in society, described by Tönnies (2001 [1887]). Gesellschaft denotes the ideal type for modern and urban society, which is characterised by individuality. Here relations are planned, chosen and targeted and take place through trade and agreed contracts. Gemeinschaft, the ideal of a rural society, is characterised by an organic community and is an expression of more traditional forms of society, with strong social ties and dependencies between individuals (Tönnies, 2001 [1887]). The use of these archetypes seem often to lead down the path of essentialism, idealisation of ‘rural’ and an oversimplified dichotomisation between urban and rural social qualities (Halfacree, 1993; Woods, 2005). However, it is the balance between these two inverse archetypal types of relations, and that these vary between societies, that is the point (Tönnies, 2001 [1887]), as they are deployed as social representations of rural and urban qualities (cf. Halfacree, 2007).

There is a lack of consensus in the research literature as to what quality of life entails as it comprises a variety of different factors. Matarrita-Cassante (2010) held that quality of life is an objective and subjective assessment of the human life situation. One operationalisation of a subjective assessment of quality of life is that it is a mix of perceived material well-being, health, productivity, intimacy, safety, community and emotional well-being (Cummins, 1997). D’Agostini and Fantini (2008) understand quality of life as not just living conditions, but as a property of the community. Strong community attachment and social ties in a community correlate with a higher level of well-being (Theodori, 2001; Lim & Putnam, 2010; Farstad & Zahl-Thanem, 2021), and appreciation of friendly and helpful neighbours relates to a higher degree of community satisfaction (Auh & Cook, 2009). As previous research shows (cf. Wallace & Pichler, 2009), there is a well-proven link between quality of life and civil participation. In this respect, youth may have arenas and ways of participating that differ from older people, and which may differ between urban and rural contexts. Hence, we apply a broad understanding of civil participation, as encompassing the social activities in a community, which happen independently of the state and the market. We seek to better understand how rural youth participate in their community, and how such participation affects rural youths’ quality of life.

Wilkinson (1991) held that the community, and civil participation in the social arenas in the community, are important for individuals’ well-being. However, fewer people and geographical distances in combination with scarcity of jobs, events and other services in rural areas may possibly impede overall community satisfaction and in turn quality of life. Wilkinson stated that community development focusing on interactional qualities within the community is necessary in order to overcome these difficulties (Wilkinson, 1991). Wallace and Pichler (2009) found indications that individual participation in civil society makes people happier, and they connected this to access to friends, networks and jobs and a feeling of giving back or committing to something. However, their notion of civil participation is restricted to association participation, namely system integration, which excludes unorganised forms of participation called social integration, which refers to informal networks and the sense of belonging (Wallace et al., 2017). Putnam (2000) included this in his definition, but he did not take participation through the Internet and social media into account. Johansen and Fisker (2020) found that social media does not alter how interaction in rural communities unfolds but rather that it is being used in the same manner as other techno-social configurations already in place. Wallace et al. (2017) showed that online communication could be a tool for creating social cohesion and this also allows connecting the community as a whole to the world outside it, making decentralised jobs possible.

Drawing on these insights, our understanding of the complexity of rural youth’s quality of life depends on a wide set of factors ranging from the availability of work and housing to social integration in the community. These factors are affected by the broader demographic problem described in the introduction. All aspects of rural life are influenced by the decline of population in rural areas, and the question of how rural youth’s perceived quality of life sits in this context is crucial, not just for maintaining lively rural communities for the residents’ sake, but also for upholding a decentralised population with all the benefits that brings.

Rural youth in research in Norway

In a literature review on rural youth in Norway, Rye (2019) found that there has been little research on this topic recently, and that the main focus on urban areas is also reflected in international academia. What we do know is that rural young people do not constitute a uniform group, and that the similarities between urban and rural youth are greater than the differences (Rye, 2019; Bakken, 2020). One study found that there are almost no differences between urban and rural youth when it comes to participation in organised activities, social digital activities and hanging out with friends (Eriksen & Andersen, 2021). What this study did not capture is how different forms of interactions, services and relations – other aspects of civil society – play out in the local environment. Frøyland (2011) showed that youth do not want to participate more and take more responsibility in organising their leisure activities, and that the faith in the collective influence is greater than their own ability to impact their own livelihoods. Moreover, as youth have trust in these arenas, there are opportunities for expanding youths’ participation, but the lack of faith in their own ability to impact needs to be taken seriously. This also extends to the broader understanding of civil society and participation regarding how youth take part in their local environment.

Method and data

We present empirical material from two different sources, applying mixed methods to strengthen the empirical basis and substantiate the findings (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). The data was not collected with civil participation in mind but is able to shed light on key aspects of quality of life among rural youth in Norway. The empirical analyses are based on new qualitative data from a Youth Panel (ten young people from different parts of Norway selected to advise the Norwegian government on future rural policy), together with Ruralis’s Norwegian Local Communities survey (NLCS) from 2016.

In the common political platform of the coalition government in 2019, it was decided that a youth panel would be set up to advise the government on various issues regarding future regional policy. The Youth’s District Panel (hereafter Youth Panel) consists of ten young people, one from each county. Although only ten persons make up the panel, the panel work received broad input through interviews with young people in rural Norway. The insights gathered from all over the country resulted in a report about what challenges and opportunities young people perceive by living less centrally (Melås, 2020). The material ranges from short statements from rural young people on social media platforms to quite short semi-structured interviews. The authors did not participate in this data collection, but the material from these sources was organised, coded and analysed by one of the authors (Melås).

The NLCS is a national survey developed and managed by Ruralis – Institute for Rural and Regional Research.1 This survey is designed to gather information about living conditions, local identity, social relationships, values and attitudes among rural and urban residents in Norway. The latest survey was conducted in 2016. Seven thousand Norwegians aged 18 years and above were drawn randomly from Norway’s Central Population Register. To ensure an equal distribution between people living in rural and urban areas, questionnaires were sent to 3,500 (randomly selected) inhabitants in rural municipalities and 3,500 in urban municipalities. As the sample is stratified, we have weighted the two samples to obtain one representative national sample when comparing urban and rural respondents. The 2016 survey has an overall response rate of 30.2 per cent. Most of the analyses based on NLCS in this chapter include only the youngest age category, 18–29 years age, which includes 231 respondents. The remaining analysis includes the rural sample (1,093 respondents). In Table 14.1, sociodemographic characteristics of the sample is compared to population data. Women are a bit overrepresented in NLCS. There is varying deviation in the age groups, while the difference is smallest for the youngest – and in our case, most relevant – age category. Individuals with higher education are somewhat overrepresented in this survey (NLCS: 48 per cent, population: 33 per cent), like in many others. The regional distribution of responses corresponds quite well to the population data. For further survey information, see Farstad (2016); Zahl-Thanem and Haugen (2019).

Norwegian Local Community Survey 2016 Norway: Statistics Norway 2016 (SSB, 2021)
Gender: Women 54 50
Gender: Men 46 50
Age group: 18–39 24 29
Age group 40–59 37 27
Age group 60+ 39 22
Higher education 48 33
Region: North Norway 10 9
Region: Mid-Norway 12 9
Region: Western Norway 21 26
Region: Eastern Norway 52 50
Region: Southern Norway 6 6

While the population is becoming increasingly diverse in many rural areas,2 NLCS does not measure respondents’ ethnicity and, hence, we have not been able to facilitate specific analyses of quality of life and ethnic minorities.

Rural youth’s civil participation and quality of life

Below we present and discuss the findings from our analysis of the empirical material in light of previous research and theory on civil participation, quality of life and rural sociology. Based on previous research on connected topics and our empirical findings, we structure the following section along two interrelated aspects that are important for understanding what characterises rural youth’s civil participation, namely sociality and proximity and perceptions of the rural. Further, we discuss what is restricting/stimulating the formation of rural youth’s civil participation in different rural contexts.

Sociality and proximity

The sense of safety that some experience, in that ‘everyone knows everyone’ in a local community, can be overshadowed in others’ perceptions of the same social transparency as involving pressure towards conformity and difficulty of escaping a bad reputation (Rye, 2006; Farstad & Zahl-Thanem, 2021). Some appreciate that in smaller communities they have a greater chance of being able to influence local decisions, while others look to urban areas in search of like-minded people and larger milieus (Melås, 2020). Sørlie et al. (2012) found that aspects of the social community and a sense of belonging/place-identity are among the reasons why people stay in rural areas. Pointing in the same direction, Farstad and Zahl-Thanem (2021) found that social transparency contributed positively to the desire to stay on in one’s local community. Furthermore, Burger et al. (2020) showed that community attachment contributes to explaining why people in rural areas score higher on happiness measurements than people living in urban areas. ‘Sense of community’ affects feelings of loneliness and consequently quality of life for youth, and higher levels of neighbourhood activities are associated with lower levels of loneliness (Chipuer et al., 2003). This, and the advantages of Gemeinschaft, are clearly articulated in the Youth Panel data, too:

You know where everyone lives, which people live in the village and where they work. In our small villages in Nordland3 there is proximity. I can run to the neighbour if I have to borrow something and am not afraid to ride with someone who will give me a lift. In Oslo and the other big cities, you can’t do that. It is not socially acceptable to say hello to strangers on the street or give them a little smile. And one should not try to think about going to the neighbour if you have any questions or need something!

(young rural resident 1)

This illustrates how the local community is considered by some as a safe and helpful environment, and that rural communities are considered social, cooperative and convivial. This was also supported by the NLCS where we find that among rural youth (young adults, 18–29 years old), 50 per cent talk to their neighbours, compared to only 22 per cent of the urban youth of the same age.4 About 48 per cent of rural youth say that they participated multiple times in arranging social events for the residents in their own community during the previous five years, compared to 28 per cent of urban youth.5 On the question of whether they feel a strong fellowship with their local community, 45 per cent of rural youth say yes, compared to 27 per cent of urban youth.6 Also, Bakken (2020) found that rural youth regard their own local community as safer than youth in urban areas do and that they have greater trust in their community. All these factors are linked to the accepted claim that community factors are important for individual well-being. This shows that sociality among young people in rural communities is distinctly different from its urban counterpart, at least in some respects. Arguably, this indicates that the social aspects of rural communities facilitate a stimulating factor for youth’s participation in civil society, both organised and unorganised.

However, there are also other voices in the Youth Panel data, pointing to negative aspects with the rural in terms of social life. One example is this quote, focusing on physical distance as a barrier for social life:

I find it more social to live in the city than in the countryside, as the way is short to be able to meet and ‘hang out’ without having to invite people to your home. These are the simple aspects of why people go to the city, but of course you have reasons such as job and education as well.

(young rural resident 2)

This partly expresses what Farrugia (2016) called the mobility imperative. Many rural young people want to take part in the material and social benefits that urban areas can provide. Farrugia claimed that ‘rural young people’s lives can therefore no longer be located purely in one place, but are trans-local, or constructed through economic, symbolic and affective relationships between the multiple spaces through which they move’ (Farrugia, 2016, p. 848). The published Youth Survey (Bakken, 2020) showed that Norwegian urban youth think – not surprisingly – that their public transport services are much better than rural youth do. This also addresses Wilkinson’s (1991) point that some rural communities may face social difficulties due to distance and dispersed settlements. Bakken (2020) also found that rural youth are less happy with their local community than urban youth. A specific concern is providing arenas for youth culture to emerge and flourish. Even though the rural community is characterised by high integration, this in some cases cuts across generational divides, as addressed in the Youth Panel data: ‘Where we live, there is no place where young people can meet most days. We have one afternoon activity provision, but this closes early and is open two days. There are no places in our town where young people can be just young people’ (young rural resident 3).

The generational divide is also apparent when it comes to degree of civil participation. When comparing responses in NLCS among youth (18–29 years) and adults (30+) in rural areas regarding their participation in civil society, we find that adults are more engaged in organised local community events (63 per cent of adults, compared to 47 per cent of youth7). Whether this is just a sign of an age-dependent changing mentality, a symptom of a withering rural civil society, or a representation of normal generational differences, is debatable. In a national study, youth (age 16–24) engage less than the adult population (age 25–60) in voluntary work (Fladmoe et al., 2018). According to Wollebæk et al. (2000), youth differ from earlier generations by focusing on the activity, and that the motivation is oriented more towards results and individualistic motives rather than the collective benefits. Since youth are less connected to their local community than the older population, they are presumably also more concerned with the relations of the others participating in organisations (Aars et al., 2011). When it comes to performing informal services among fellow residents, we find in our material (NLCS) no statistically significant differences between youth and adults. However, rural youth are generally participating more in the community than urban youth when it comes to holding events (as already shown) and helping out neighbours (18 per cent of rural youth report having helped most or many of their neighbours, compared to 5 per cent of urban youth8).

While many rural young people take pride in their rural upbringing and express affection and affiliation towards their homeplace (Melås, 2020), the disadvantages of not being close to ‘where everything happens’ are evident in the Youth Panel data: ‘In rural Norway, it’s a problem to visit a friend whenever you want, or go to the cinema, because you are dependent on public transport or parents offering a lift’ (young rural resident 4). However, COVID-19 has dramatically increased the extent of digital events and meetings for everyone, making geographical location potentially less crucial to some forms of social activities and civil participation. New digital innovations could possibly be sourced to both solve the challenges of distance and glue young people socially together by the very act of combatting distance. For instance, organised carpooling through social media could potentially create new social relations in a digital setting that creates new possibilities for social life in the physical realm.

Generally, youth’s perspectives on a further digitalisation of the countryside are overwhelmingly positive in the Youth Panel data (Melås, 2020). Digital tools as a means to decentralise workplaces are considered part of the solution for counterbalancing or compensating for the consequences of urbanisation. Rural youth wish for more decentralised workspaces, home office opportunities and shared work communities (Melås, 2020). Central to the assessment of quality of life is also the quality of welfare services (or lack thereof), which the young people in the data material consider could also to some extent be handled by digital tools. Some informants mention lack of proper school health services and an easily accessible school nurse as an issue and point towards digital possibilities. What this shows is that digitalisation is considered to potentially be a positive contribution in handling the geographical challenges of rural communities: ‘Digitisation may ease the situation for commuters; the opportunity to use home office part of the working time. Being able to communicate with others without having to travel long distances is beneficial for both the rural population and the environment’ (young rural resident 5).

Perceptions of the rural

The insights from the Youth Panel paint a picture of Norwegian rural youth being torn between what is presented as the rural idyll and the exciting and modern lifestyle of the city. What in one context, or among one group, is considered positive, can in other contexts, or among other groups, be perceived as negative. Many say they want to start a family in their rural home place due to a sense of place-identity, belonging and well-being, but at the same time there are some who consider it unlikely that they will find a relevant job after graduating. Many see the rural life as poorer in the form of lack of events, meeting places and interesting career paths (Melås, 2020).

This relates to the representation of urbanity as defining youth culture and thus core to cultural status and modern youth identities (Farrugia, 2016). Fewer meeting places combined with a lack of public transport are seen as a weakness for rural communities and some of the informants in the Youth Panel data say this potentially makes it less likely they would settle there. The following quote is characteristic: ‘By living in the countryside, you are somehow outside the progress that is happening in the rest of the world and in the cities, the peripheries often lag a little behind.’ Others stress the importance of a sense of belonging to a community. What this uncovers is a significant duality and ambivalence in the representation of the rural as being both peaceful and safe, while also boring and limiting for their aspirations, and a mix of both push and pull factors. This has also been documented by many earlier studies (cf. Rye, 2006; Haugen & Villa, 2008). There is reason to believe that the factors emphasised change according to phases of life (see, for instance, Villa, 2000), which will also affect the properties in perceived quality of life, as each life phase has different properties.

One take on this notion is the perception that rural communities are typically communities where residents join together and help each other out by doing voluntary work and through holding community events (Gemeinschaft). As shown, this understanding of the rural finds some support in the NLCS, where we see that rural youth participate more than their urban counterparts, and on the same level as older rural people. Rural youth also classify their local community as having widespread voluntarism, or strong dugnadsånd9 to a higher degree than urban youth (44 per cent of rural youth versus 19 per cent of urban youth10). Another aspect is how the rural context, with smaller local communities, allows for greater impact and reward for participation. One of the informants in the Youth Panel data explains that it is easier to influence decisions in rural communities due to fewer people, tighter relations and familiarity with fellow inhabitants.

Moving beyond dichotomies: a socio-spatial approach to quality of life

The contextual backdrop of a diminishing and ageing countryside, followed by a slow, but steady withering of the periphery’s infrastructure such as higher education, jobs with high education requirements, opportunities and ‘modernisation’ of youth’s cultural preferences, portrays a pessimistic rural future. Efforts to improve rural quality of life must begin with a realistic framing of current and future actualities, which is, as we have seen, rather dire. This could be done by addressing the different dimensions of rural communities and how these relate to the prospects of a vibrant civil society. Arguably, quality of life in rural communities could be understood with a threefold architecture in mind – a material dimension, a social dimension and a representational dimension – and where these dimensions, in isolation and a trialectic manner, constitute, support and undermine quality of life in rural communities (Halfacree, 2006, 2007). Seeing rural as a trialectic socio-spatial emergence in which rurality is conceptually approached as co-constituted by ‘locality’, ‘ideas about rurality’ and ‘human practice’, is analytically rewarding as it bridges three fundamental dimensions (Cloke, 2006; Frisvoll, 2012).

The material dimension of rurality directs analytical attention to the material aspects of quality of life such as geographical distance, settlement pattern and how this affects social interaction in the local community, job opportunities and access to public and private services. The representational dimension not only acknowledges analytical attention to the social representations of rural and the cultural stereotypes and how they are perceived by rural youth, but also towards how quality of life in rural communities is addressed in formal planning documents and authorities’ policies. The social dimension focuses analytically on the social interactions and relations within the local community, voluntary work and services among friends and fellow residents, and actions and inactions of the people entangled in (uneven) power (Frisvoll, 2012). A key aspect with the trialectic conceptual understanding of rural is that the three dimensions mutually influence each other. For instance, distance and sociality are arguably non-complementary. What constitutes, and what undermines, quality of life varies across different socio-spatial contexts.

In Figure 14.1 we have placed three archetypical rural quality of life contexts across two dimensions belonging to the trialectic understanding’s material dimension: distance to geographical centre and settlement pattern. Arguably, these two material dimensions are particularly fundamental in terms of quality of life in rural communities as they constitute the frames of possibilities for the civil sector. The horizontal axis, centre-periphery, is important in numerous ways. First, the demographic issues previously described have a clear correlation to centrality. The population constituting a rural community has higher mean age towards the extreme periphery than towards the extreme centre. Also, public transport varies across this geographical axis. Towards the extreme periphery public transport is poor, compared to that of the juxtaposing geographical extreme in Figure 14.1.

In terms of youth, the dimensions in Figure 14.1 constitute different contexts for the aspects referred to by the triad’s social dimension: towards the extreme periphery the number of young people in a community is fewer than towards the extreme centre. The likelihood of having someone to interact with that shares your interests and values is perhaps higher towards the extreme centre than the extreme periphery. Social transparency and the social relations in societies closer to the archetypical Gemeinschaft- rather than the Gesellschaft-like communities towards the extreme geographical centre seem to facilitate civil participation in the local community. Tighter social relations are, as we have seen, characterised by higher civil participation among youth and a higher degree of informal services in the local community. For example, in a community characterised by Gemeinschaft, the civil sector could be expected to have a greater overview of local resources to mobilise in their work for bettering rural youth’s quality of life, compared to a Gesellschaft-type society. On the other hand, there may be fewer resources to play with.

While the horizontal axis of the figure refers to an extra-community geographical dimension (i.e. distance between the community and the geographical centre), the vertical axis of the figure refers to intra-community distance. Arguably, this is an important factor in quality of life in rural communities for youth, as social interaction in a high-distance geographical frame is different from social interactions in a compact geographical frame, especially for youth that may not yet have a driver’s licence. In these geographical contexts, public financial support could, for instance, be directed towards supporting civil sector initiatives to digitally organise carpooling. This also illustrates the interconnectedness of the rural dimensions, as such a quality of life scheme most likely also would need a change in the legal framework regarding the transport sectors (e.g. taxi concessions).

Youth participation in the local community is different than for adults and urban youth. Current approaches to civil sector and youth quality of life need to be expanded to better cover youth’s social practices. This includes acts perceived as services among friends, like carpooling with members of the local community, helping neighbours and the like. A rural policy geared towards quality of life instead of keeping up a given population size, is a promising path for rural communities in the peripheries facing the consequences of demographic shifts and increasing strain on social welfare as a consequence. Approaching rurality not as a fixed socio-spatial situation, but as a flow of socio-spatial situations in which different material features constitute different possibilities and paths for rural youth’s quality of life and civil participation is a promising route forward.

2 For example, the share of non-western immigrants has increased correspondingly in rural and urban areas from 2009 (Kampevoll & Martinussen, 2018).
3 County in the northern part of Norway.
4 N=229. Chi-Square = 12.902, df = 1, p. 0.000.
5 N=231. Chi-Square = 5.657, df = 1, p, 0.017.
6 N=231. Chi-Square = 4.948, df = 1, p, 0.026.
7 N=1073. Chi-Square = 10.793, df = 1, p. 0.001.
8 N=229. Chi-Square = 7.160, df = 1, p. 0.007.
9 ‘Dugnad’ is voluntary work, -‘ånd’ is spirit or attitude.
10 N=228. Chi-Square = 11.542, df = 1, p. 0.001.

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