Education, mobility and rural business development

Gary Bosworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: In a period of rural economic change, knowledge and skills transfers and the generation of new economic opportunities are seen as essential for promoting rural development. The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence of the impact of educated in-migrants establishing new business activity in rural areas. 

Design/methodology/approach: The research employs qualitative interviews with rural business owners informed by an earlier postal survey of rural microbusinesses in the North East of England. The interview data are used to explore the implications of owners' past education and work experience for the development of their businesses. The attitudes and networking behaviour of business owners are also explored in order to assess the extent to which social capital facilitates the exchange of valuable knowledge and opportunities between rural businesses.

Findings: Data indicate that rural in-migrants, defined as having moved at least 30 miles as adults, arrive with significantly higher education qualifications than their local business-owning counterparts. It also indicates that those with higher levels of education are most likely to engage with networking groups and business advice providers. This leads to the conclusion that as well as bringing higher levels of human capital, the integration of in-migrants into local economies is indirectly increasing the potential levels of human and social capital across the rural economy. 

Originality/value: The research highlights important data concerning the levels of education among in-migrants and local business owners. It continues by developing theoretical explanations about the way that a business owner's background can influence their business activity. This raises awareness of the diversity of skills and networks among rural business owners that are enhancing the stocks of human and social capital in the rural economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-677
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Issue number4
Early online date23 Oct 2009
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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