How was The Study Conducted?

The students in the RYE study are included because they were attending school in one of the ten school districts selected from all rural school districts in Pennsylvania during the 2004-05 school year. Students are being surveyed every other year for four waves of data collection.

Wave 1 was the first data collection effort. The study began in the 2004/2005 school year when we surveyed the 7th and 11th grade students in 10 rural school districts throughout Pennsylvania--a total of 1,536 students. The surveys were administered in school. In Wave 1, we asked about future plans for school, work, starting a family, and where the youth want to live as adults. We also asked about factors that influence student success in school and what might shape their aspirations--such things as feelings about their school and community, their closeness with parents, and how well they are doing in school.

Wave 2 data collection occurred in Fall 2006 when the former 7th grade students were in the 9th grade, and the former 11th grade students were one year out of high school. We asked many of the same questions as in wave 1, with more focus on their local community and how it influences their future plans related to education, work, family and where they want to live. For the older group, one year past high school graduation age, we asked if their plans had changed and what they were doing (working, in college or vocational training, combining work and school, starting a family). With this information we can assess if the youth are beginning to achieve their goals. One school left the study in wave 2 and two new schools were added.

Data collection for wave 3 was completed in the 2008-2009 school year. The younger cohort (those in 7 th grade in wave 1) was in the 11th grade and completed surveys in their respective schools thanks to the continuing cooperation of the school districts. The older cohort (in 11 th grade in wave 1) was three years past high school graduation age. Data collection for the older cohort was conducted using phone and/or web surveys and was completed in Spring/Summer 2009. The information from wave 3 will be used to understand how aspirations for education, work, family and where rural young people want to live develop, change and are achieved over time.

By Wave 4, the older, 11 th grade cohort will be five years past high school graduation age, the younger cohort will be one year past high school graduation age. Wave 4 data collection will occur in Spring 2011. The project team looks forward to contacting and hearing from the participants in the RYE study. We also would like to express our appreciation for the willingness of these young adults, now ages 19 to 25 years old, to take part in the study. Describing and understanding their experiences will be invaluable for those working with youth in rural communities to assist in planning their futures. The information provided also will be critical to helping rural communities determine what is essential to enable youth who want to stay in rural places, to do so.

P roject funding has been provided, in part, by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly; by a grant from the USDA National Research Initiative, Grant 2007-35401-17736, and by Hatch Grant 4001 to The Pennsylvania State University.