IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Population ageing, inequality and the political economy of public education

  • Francisco Martínez-Mora


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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Leicester in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 09/3.

in new window

Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:09/3
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics University of Leicester, University Road. Leicester. LE1 7RH. UK
Phone: +44 (0)116 252 2887
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 2908
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Ed Baldson & Eric Brunner, 2003. "Intergenerational Conflict and the Political Economy of School Spending," Working papers 2003-24, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. De Fraja, Gianni, 2002. "The Design of Optimal Education Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(2), pages 437-66, April.
  5. Michele Boldrin & Ana Montes, 2005. "The Intergenerational State Education and Pensions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 651-664.
  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. Martinez-Mora, Francisco, 2006. "The existence of non-elite private schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1505-1518, September.
  8. Gradstein, Mark & Kaganovich, Michael, 2004. "Aging population and education finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2469-2485, December.
  9. Gilat Levy, 2005. "The politics of public provision of education," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 940, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. 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.
  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. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:09/3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mrs. Alexandra Mazzuoccolo)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.