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Demographic structure and the political economy of public education

  • James M. Poterba

    (Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

This article examines the relationship between demographic structure and the level of government spending on K-12 education. Panel data for the states of the United States over the 1960-1990 period suggests that an increase in the fraction of elderly residents in a jurisdiction is associated with a significant reduction in per-child educational spending. This reduction is particularly large when the elderly residents and the school-age population are from different racial groups. Variation in the size of the school-age population does not result in proportionate changes in education spending, thus, students in states with larger school-age populations receive lower per-student spending than those in states with smaller numbers of potential students. These results provide support for models of generational competition in the allocation of public sector resources. They also suggest that the effect of cohort size on government-mediated transfers must be considered in analyzing how cohort size affects economic well-being.

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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Volume (Year): 16 (1997)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 48-66

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:16:y:1997:i:1:p:48-66
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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  1. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Goodman, Robert P, 1973. "Private Demands for Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 280-96, June.
  2. Gross, John, 1995. "Heterogeneity of preferences for local public goods: The case of private expenditure on public education," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 103-127, May.
  3. Filer, John E & Kenny, Lawrence W & Morton, Rebecca B, 1991. "Voting Laws, Educational Policies, and Minority Turnout," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 371-93, October.
  4. Lindert, Peter H., 1996. "What Limits Social Spending?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-34, January.
  5. Megdal, Sharon Bernstein, 1984. "A model of local demand for education," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 13-30, July.
  6. Borge, Lars-Erik & Rattso, Jorn, 1995. "Demographic shift, relative costs and the allocation of local public consumption in Norway," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 705-726, December.
  7. David M. Cutler & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1993. "Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle," NBER Working Papers 4283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Borcherding, Thomas E & Deacon, Robert T, 1972. "The Demand for the Services of Non-Federal Governments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 891-901, December.
  9. Schwab, Robert M. & Oates, Wallace E., 1991. "Community composition and the provision of local public goods : A normative analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 217-237, March.
  10. Peltzman, Sam, 1993. "The Political Economy of the Decline of American Public Education," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 331-70, April.
  11. Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1977. "Voting in a Local School Election: A Micro Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 59(1), pages 30-42, February.
  12. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-64, August.
  13. Rubinfeld, Daniel L. & Shapiro, Perry, 1989. "Micro-estimation of the demand for schooling : Evidence from Michigan and Massachusetts," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 381-398, August.
  14. Downes, Thomas A, 1996. " An Examination of the Structure of Governance in California School Districts before and after Proposition 13," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 86(3-4), pages 279-307, March.
  15. Figlio, David N., 1997. "Did the "tax revolt" reduce school performance?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 245-269, September.
  16. Case, Anne C. & Rosen, Harvey S. & Hines, James Jr., 1993. "Budget spillovers and fiscal policy interdependence : Evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 285-307, October.
  17. John R. Lott, Jr., 1987. "Why Is Education Publicly Provided? A Critical Survey," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 7(2), pages 475-501, Fall.
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