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Are Involved Parents Providing Public Goods or Private Goods?

  • Patrick Walsh

    (St. Michael's College)

Parents who lobby their children's schools for better or increased educational resources may be providing a schoolwide public good. However, they may also be capturing a larger share of school resources, possibly leaving other families worse off. A regression of within-school variation in input quality on parent-initiated school contact identifies this ``private-good'' effect, using involvement in civic organizations to instrument for contact. A 10 percent increase in the probability of parental contact raises the probability of inclusion in a gifted program by 2 percent to 3 percent. At the average school, the highest ``non-gifted'' students significantly outscore the lowest ``gifted'' students, suggesting that this lobbying crowds out deserving students. Alongside these private-good effects, involved parents also provide public goods: again instrumenting with civic involvement, higher participation in a school's parent—teacher organization leads to a higher probability that principals frequently observe and evaluate all teachers at that school.

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Article provided by in its journal Public Finance Review.

Volume (Year): 36 (2008)
Issue (Month): 6 (November)
Pages: 678-705

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Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:36:y:2008:i:6:p:678-705
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