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The Effect of Property Taxes on Location Decisions:Evidence From the Market for Vacation Homes

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  • Erik B. Johnson
  • Randall Walsh

Abstract

The Tiebout model assumes that individuals 'vote with their feet' and choose to locate in the jurisdiction which best matches their fiscal preferences. In this paper, we test Tiebout's voting mechanism by examining whether housing purchase decisions are sensitive to changes in local property tax rates. Results from previous empirical tests of the link between property taxes and mobility are mixed and typically suffer from a myriad of identification problems including the confounding influence of tax rates on public good levels, tax endogeneity arising as a result of jurisdictional composition, and aggregation bias. In this paper, we are able to overcome many of the traditional obstacles to identification by: 1) focusing on purchasers of vacation homes who arguably receive no benefits from public goods funded by the tax change; 2) examining an exogenous and differential change in tax rates that arose from Michigan's Proposal A in 1994; and 3) using a high-resolution tax dataset at the Census Tract level. Our results provide some of the clearest evidence to date that household location choices are sensitive to tax changes. Further, consistent with theoretical predictions, the impact of tax changes on housing counts is found to be sensitive to the elasticity of housing supply.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14793.

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Date of creation: Mar 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14793

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  1. Courant, Paul N & Gramlich, Edward M & Loeb, Susanna, 1995. "Michigan's Recent School Finance Reforms: A Preliminary Report," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 372-77, May.
  2. Henderson, J Vernon, 1980. "Community Development: The Effects of Growth and Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 894-910, December.
  3. Epple, Dennis & Zelenitz, Allan, 1981. "The Implications of Competition among Jurisdictions: Does Tiebout Need Politics?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1197-1217, December.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko & Raven E. Saks, 2005. "Urban Growth and Housing Supply," NBER Working Papers 11097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hoyt, William H., 1999. "Leviathan, local government expenditures, and capitalization," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 155-171, March.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2005. "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 345-375, April.
  7. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  8. Henderson, J Vernon, 1985. "The Tiebout Model: Bring Back the Entrepreneurs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(2), pages 248-64, April.
  9. Anderson, Nathan B., 2006. "Beggar Thy Neighbor? Property Taxation of Vacation Homes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(4), pages 757-80, December.
  10. Ross, Stephen & Yinger, John, 1999. "Sorting and voting: A review of the literature on urban public finance," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 47, pages 2001-2060 Elsevier.
  11. Farnham, Martin & Sevak, Purvi, 2006. "State fiscal institutions and empty-nest migration: Are Tiebout voters hobbled?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 407-427, February.
  12. Yinger, John, 1982. "Capitalization and the Theory of Local Public Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 917-43, October.
  13. Brasington, David M., 2002. "Edge versus center: finding common ground in the capitalization debate," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 524-541, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Byron F. Lutz, 2009. "Fiscal amenities, school finance reform and the supply side of the Tiebout market," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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