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Alaska Coastal Community Youth and the Future


Marie LoweInstitute of Social and Economic Research
University of Alaska Anchorage



Many Alaska rural coastal communities are experiencing a net out-migration of young people. In one 2004 study that tracked 16,000 rural students through high school and beyond, 38 percent of the graduates left their communities, never to return.

This project examines the perceptions by youth in Alaska’s coastal communities of their lives today and their aspirations about the future.

View the final report online as a PDF (876 KB): Alaska Coastal Community Youth and the Future.


The issue

Young people are leaving Alaska’s rural coastal communities at an alarming rate. A 2004 study found that 38 percent of Alaska rural high school graduates left their communities and did not return. Southeast Alaska communities experienced the highest rate of out-migration.

Why is this an Alaska Sea Grant project?

A key objective of Alaska Sea Grant is to foster sustainable coastal communities. A better understanding of the causes of youth out-migration may help reverse the trend.

How will researchers conduct their study?

The research was conducted in the Alaska fishing communities of Sitka, Petersburg, and Craig in Southeast Alaska, and Kodiak and Ouzinkie in the Kodiak Archipelago. Focused group Interviews consisting of 30 questions were conducted with 88 coastal youth, aged 16‐24. Participants self-selected into the focus groups and participating minors were required to bring a signed copy of the consent form from their parents/guardians. Participants also were administered a brief demographic questionnaire and participated in an occupational ranking exercise. Focus group discussions were digitally recorded, transcribed, and subject to content analysis in Atlas ti, qualitative data analysis software. Descriptive statistical functions in SPSS were used to analyze questionnaire data and the occupational ranking data collected. The occupational ranking data were also subject to cultural consensus analysis functions in Anthropac software which yielded some exploratory results.

Research collaborators

Meghan Wilson, master's degree student at the UAA Anthropology Department and former ISER research associate; Robyn Miller, Alaska Sea Grant-funded graduate student and ISER research assistant; and Kate Sanders, UAA student intern. Meghan Wilson assisted Dr. Lowe in conducting the fieldwork, she directed the Kodiak and Ouzinkie fieldwork, and processed the data. Robyn Miller assisted Ms. Wilson in the Kodiak and Ouzinkie fieldwork and processed some of the data from these trips. Kate Sanders visited the Ouzinkie school and helped process data. Collaborators also include teachers, community members and students of the five study communities that facilitated and participated in the research.


What researchers learned

The final report is available online as a PDF (876 KB): Alaska Coastal Community Youth and the Future.

Research outcomes

Lowe, M.E. 2015. Localized practices and globalized futures: challenges for Alaska coastal community youth. Maritime Studies 14:6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40152-015-0024-y