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Population ageing, inequality and the political economy of public education

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  • Francisco Martínez-Mora

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Abstract

Population ageing has triggered concerns about the sustainability of public systems of education. The empirical evidence is still inconclusive, whereas some theoretical results present a somewhat optimistic view (Gradstein and Kaganovich, 2004; Levy, 2005). The present note re-examines the political economy of public education in an ageing society, using the classical median voter model. The normative analysis shows that elderly households introduce distortions that render political outcomes inefficient except in rare circumstances. It is then explained that the interplay among the political and financial consequences of ageing gives rise to a non-linear, and possibly non-monotonic (inverted-U shaped) relationship between spending per pupil and the share of childless households in the population. Income inequality is shown to play a crucial role of in the process, revealing that ageing has a stronger tendency towards underprovision in economies with high inequality. The implications for the empirical literature are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Francisco Martínez-Mora, 2009. "Population ageing, inequality and the political economy of public education," Discussion Papers in Economics 09/3, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  • Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:09/3
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    File URL: http://www.le.ac.uk/economics/research/RePEc/lec/leecon/dp09-3.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gradstein, Mark & Kaganovich, Michael, 2004. "Aging population and education finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2469-2485, December.
    2. Gianni de Fraja, 2002. "The Design of Optimal Education Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 437-466.
    3. Michele Boldrin & Ana Montes, 2005. "The Intergenerational State Education and Pensions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 651-664.
    4. Gilat Levy, 2005. "The Politics of Public Provision of Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1507-1534.
    5. Ladd, Helen F. & Murray, Sheila E., 2001. "Intergenerational conflict reconsidered: county demographic structure and the demand for public education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 343-357, August.
    6. Ueli Grob & Stefan C. Wolter, 2007. "Demographic Change and Public Education Spending: A Conflict between Young and Old?," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(3), pages 277-292.
    7. Brunner, Eric & Balsdon, Ed, 2004. "Intergenerational conflict and the political economy of school spending," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 369-388, September.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. de Bartolome, Charles A. M. & Ross, Stephen L., 2004. "Who's in charge of the central city? The conflict between efficiency and equity in the design of a metropolitan area," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 458-483, November.
    12. Harris, Amy Rehder & Evans, William N. & Schwab, Robert M., 2001. "Education spending in an aging America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 449-472, September.
    13. Martinez-Mora, Francisco, 2006. "The existence of non-elite private schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1505-1518, September.
    14. Francisco Martínez-Mora, 2009. "Population ageing, inequality and the political economy of public education," Discussion Papers in Economics 09/3, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    15. Miller, Cynthia, 1996. "Demographics and spending for public education: a test of interest group influence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 175-185, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francisco Martínez Mora, 2009. "Population Ageing, Inequality and the Political Economy of Public Education," Working Papers 2009-03, FEDEA.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    population ageing; income inequality; median voter model; public education;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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