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Property Tax Limitations and Mobility: The Lock-in Effect of California's Proposition 13

  • Nada Wasi
  • Michelle J. White

Proposition 13, adopted by California voters in 1978, mandates a property tax rate of one percent, requires that properties be assessed at market value at the time of sale, and allows assessments to rise by no more than 2% per year until the next sale. In this paper, we examine how Prop 13 has affected the average tenure length of owners and renters in California versus in other states. We find that from 1970 to 2000, the average tenure length of owners and renters in California increased by 1.04 years and .79 years, respectively, relative to the comparison states. We also find substantial variation in the response to Prop 13, with African-American households responding more than households of other races and migrants responding more than native-born households. Among owner-occupiers, the response to Prop 13 increases sharply as the size of the subsidy rises. Homeowners living in inland California cities such as Bakersfield receive Prop 13 subsidies averaging only $110/year and their average tenure length increased by only .11 years in 2000, but owners living in coastal California cities receive Prop 13 subsidies averaging in the thousands of dollars and their average tenure length increased by 2 to 3 years.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11108.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11108.

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Date of creation: Feb 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11108
Note: LE LS PE
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  1. David M. Cutler & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1997. "Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 6196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ferreira, Fernando, 2010. "You can take it with you: Proposition 13 tax benefits, residential mobility, and willingness to pay for housing amenities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 661-673, October.
  3. Caroline M. Hoxby & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2004. "Robin Hood and His Not-So-Merry Plan: Capitalization and the Self-Destruction of Texas' School Finance Equalization Plan," NBER Working Papers 10722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. O'Sullivan Arthur & Sexton Terri A. & Sheffrin Steven M., 1995. "Property Taxes, Mobility, and Home Ownership," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 107-129, January.
  5. Lang, Kevin & Jian, Tianlun, 2004. "Property taxes and property values: evidence from Proposition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 439-457, May.
  6. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  7. Mark Hoven Stohs & Paul Childs & Simon Stevenson, 2001. "Tax Policies and Residential Mobility," International Real Estate Review, Asian Real Estate Society, vol. 4(1), pages 95-117.
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