In former geographical studies, the regional disparities of education levels were little emphasized in Japan. But education levels and locations of educational institutions and their inflow areas cannot be examined separately. Also, the disparities of education level are closely related to that of social level and economic conditions. So the regional disparities of education levels are closely related to those of social level and economic conditions. Therefore the regional disparities of education level between core and peripheral regions correspond with that of economy which are closely connected with the social level. Furthermore, to understand the regional disparities it is important to study the distribution of educational opportunities.
The purpose of this paper is to make clear the regional disparities and longitudinal change in education levels in Japan and to analyze mechanisms of regional disparities.
The results obtained are summarized as follows;
1) The location of institutions of higher education tended to be concentrated in larger cities, especially in core regions of Japan, such as the southern Kanto and Keihanshin metropolitan areas. The national educational policy played an important role in this location.
2) In peripheral regions, students who wish to go to colleges go out to core regions because of the small capacity of institutions of higher education in their own region. On the contrary, core regions absorbed them. These processes created the great regional disparities in the number of undergraduate students between core and peripheral regions.
3) Return migration of university graduates decreased the disparities of higher education level between core and peripheral regions. But the regional disparities of job opportunities and quality of jobs made students stay in the core region and migrate to the core region. These processes made the higher educated concentrate in the core region.
4) Since the 1970s, the institutions of higher education have increased in the peripheral region assisted by the location policy of institution of higher education.
So the capacity of students in higher education increased. And job opportunities were enlarged in the peripheral region. So the regional differences in educational level decreased. Nevertheless, the higher educated still tend to leave peripheral areas, and the core areas continue to absorb them. This shows us that the mechanisms of increasing regional disparities are still at work.