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School quality and Massachusetts enrollment shifts in the context of tax limitations

  • Katharine L. Bradbury
  • Karl E. Case
  • Chirstopher J. Mayer

Like most states, Massachusetts underwent a large shift in public school enrollment between the 1980s and 1990s, requiring a number of sizable fiscal and educational adjustments by individual school districts. Between 1980 and 1989, the number of students in kindergarten through grade 12 fell 21 percent, from 1.04 million to 825,000. As children of baby boomers reached school age, the picture changed and enrollments grew more than 90,000 over the next seven years. These aggregate trends gloss over even more marked shifts at the local level. This article investigates the degree to which the constraints of proposition 2 1/2, and other factors such as demographic and economic shifts and differences in school quality, affected the adjustments that both local governments and households made to demographically driven turnaround in enrollment growth. The authors report three major findings: (1) Net public school enrollment changes are positively related to differences across communities in school quality. (2) Shifts in enrollments were much more pronounced in the 1990s, when aggregate enrollments were rising and the economy was improving. (3) Proposition 2 1/2 appears to have significantly altered the pattern of enrollment changes, with families with students moving to districts less constrained by this property tax limit.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its journal New England Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (1998)
Issue (Month): Jul ()
Pages: 3-20

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbne:y:1998:i:jul:p:3-20
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  1. Thomas Downes & David Figlio, 1998. "School Finance Reforms, Tax Limits, and Student Performance: Do Reforms Level-Up or Dumb Down?," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9805, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  2. Karl E. Case, 1986. "The market for single-family homes in the Boston area," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue May, pages 38-48.
  3. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  4. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
  5. David M. Cutler & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1997. "Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 6196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Karl E. Case & Christopher J. Mayer, 1995. "The housing cycle in Eastern Massachusetts: variations among cities and towns," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar, pages 24-40.
  7. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Weil, David N., 1989. "The baby boom, the baby bust, and the housing market," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 235-258, May.
  8. Katharine L. Bradbury, 1997. "Property tax limits and local fiscal behavior: did Massachusetts cities and towns spend too little on town services under proposition 2 1/2?," Working Papers 97-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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