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Public education for the minority, private education for the majority

  • Gilat Levy

Public provision of private goods such as education is usually viewed as a form of redistribution in kind. However, does it arise when income redistribution is feasible as well? In this paper I analyse a two-dimensional model of political decision making. Society has to choose both the tax rate and the allocation of the revenues between income redistribution and public provision of education. The political process that I analyse involves endogenous parties. Parties have a unique role in the model; I assume that parties increase the commitment ability of politicians and, as a result, increase the ability of different groups in society to compromise with one another. I find that public provision of education arises as an anti-majoritarian outcome; public provision of education arises only when those who benefit from education, e.g., voters with children, are a minority. The reason is that when education is consumed only by a minority, such redistribution in kind is 'cheap' relative to universal income redistribution, i.e., it can be effectively provided even with low taxes. Public provision of education arises then as a political compromise offered by the party of the poor who benefit from education and the rich voters who prefer low taxes. Thus, when those who benefit from education are a minority, it is publicly provided. When those who benefit from education are a majority, they have to buy private education, since there is no public provision of this good.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3617/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 3617.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:3617
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
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  1. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  2. James M. Poterba, 1997. "Demographic structure and the political economy of public education," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 48-66.
  3. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 3(4), pages 379-397, December.
  4. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 1994. "On the political economy of education subsidies," Staff Report 185, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1989. "Public Provision Of Private Goods And The Redistribution Of Income," Papers 36, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  6. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1996. "Public Provision of Private Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 57-84, February.
  7. Bearse, P. & Glomm, G. & Janeba, E., 2000. "Why poor countries rely mostly on redistribution in-kind," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 463-481, March.
  8. Bearse, Peter & Glomm, Gerhard & Janeba, Eckhard, 2001. " Composition of Government Budget, Non-single Peakedness, and Majority Voting," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 3(4), pages 471-81.
  9. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E., 1996. "Ends against the middle: Determining public service provision when there are private alternatives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 297-325, November.
  10. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," Penn CARESS Working Papers ecf70d639d700dba5327ab0c8, Penn Economics Department.
  11. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinksi, 1995. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-01, McMaster University.
  12. Barzel, Yoram, 1973. "Private Schools and Public School Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(1), pages 174-86, Jan.-Feb..
  13. Stiglitz, J. E., 1974. "The demand for education in public and private school systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 349-385, November.
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