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Inequality, redistribution and the allocation of public spending in education. A political-economy approach

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  • Di Gioacchino, Debora
  • Ginebri, Sergio

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  • Sabani, Laura

Abstract

The incidence of public expenditure in education appears to be skewed in favour of the middle and upper classes. This paper inquires into the determinants of this bias using a political economy approach. We develop a model with two time periods with an election occurring between the two. In the first period, agents differ in their initial wealth. In the second period, differences in wealth are combined with differences in income. In the first period, the incumbent government issues debt to finance public spending in education and decides how to allocate available resources between primary and tertiary education. Both increase aggregate income, but while investment in primary education reduces income inequality, investment in tertiary education increases it. At the beginning of the second period, a two-party electoral competition is held and probabilistic voting decides the winner. By varying the parameters of the linear income tax, the elected policy-maker can redistribute resources between low and high income individuals, while by choosing a debt default rate she can renege on the promise to fully repay public obligations, redistributing resources from bond-holders to tax-payers. We show that the investment in primary education might not be (politically) viable. Intuitively, investment in primary education, by reducing income inequality with respect to wealth inequality, might increase the desired debt default rate of future policy makers, making issuing debt to finance primary education unfeasible.

Suggested Citation

  • Di Gioacchino, Debora & Ginebri, Sergio & Sabani, Laura, 2005. "Inequality, redistribution and the allocation of public spending in education. A political-economy approach," Economics & Statistics Discussion Papers esdp05024, University of Molise, Dept. EGSeI.
  • Handle: RePEc:mol:ecsdps:esdp05024
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    File URL: http://web.unimol.it/progetti/repec/mol/ecsdps/ESDP05024.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114.
    2. Roland Benabou, 2000. "Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 96-129, March.
    3. Debora Di Gioacchino & Sergio Ginebri & Laura Sabani, 2004. "Political support for anti-inflationary monetary policy," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(2), pages 187-200.
    4. Roland Bénabou, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 11-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 3(4), pages 379-397, December.
    6. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 743-768.
    7. Gianni De Fraja, 2004. "Education and Redistribution," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 94(3), pages 3-44, May-June.
    8. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-156, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:5:y:2008:i:9:p:1-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Radhika Lahiri & Elisabetta Magnani, 2008. "On inequality and the allocation of public spending," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 5(9), pages 1-8.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    policy choices in representative democracies; public investment in education; redistribution; government debt repayment.;

    JEL classification:

    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H42 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Private Goods
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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