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The Value of School Facilities: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design

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  • Stephanie Riegg Cellini
  • Fernando Ferreira
  • Jesse Rothstein

Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of voter-approved school bond issues on school district balance sheets, local housing prices, and student achievement. We draw on the unique characteristics of California's system of school finance to obtain clean identification of bonds' causal effects, comparing districts in which school bond referenda passed or failed by narrow margins. We extend the traditional regression discontinuity (RD) design to account for the dynamic nature of bond referenda, since the probability of future proposals depends on the outcomes of past elections. By law, bond revenues can be used only for school facilities projects. We find that bond funds indeed stick exclusively in the capital account, with no effect on current expenditures or other revenues. Our housing market estimates indicate that California school districts under-invest in school facilities: passing a referendum causes immediate, sizable increases in home prices, implying a willingness-to-pay on the part of marginal homebuyers of $1.50 or more for each $1 of facility spending. These effects do not appear to be driven by changes in the income or racial composition of homeowners, and the school bond impact on test scores cannot explain more than a small portion of the total housing price effect. Our estimates indicate that parents value improvements in other dimensions of school output (e.g., safety) that may be not captured by test scores.

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  • Stephanie Riegg Cellini & Fernando Ferreira & Jesse Rothstein, 2008. "The Value of School Facilities: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design," NBER Working Papers 14516, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14516
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    2. Wong, Maisy, 2010. "The Relationship between Marginal Willingness-to-Pay in the Hedonic and Discrete Choice Models," MPRA Paper 51218, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Alexander Whalley, 2013. "Elected versus Appointed Policy Makers: Evidence from City Treasurers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(1), pages 39-81.
    4. Wang, Wen & Duncombe, William D. & Yinger, John M., 2011. "School District Responses to Matching Aid Programs for Capital Facilities: A Case Study of New York’s Building Aid Program," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(3), pages 759-794, September.
    5. Mauricio Villamizar‐Villegas & Freddy A. Pinzon‐Puerto & Maria Alejandra Ruiz‐Sanchez, 2022. "A comprehensive history of regression discontinuity designs: An empirical survey of the last 60 years," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(4), pages 1130-1178, September.
    6. Feng, Hao & Lu, Ming, 2013. "School quality and housing prices: Empirical evidence from a natural experiment in Shanghai, China," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 291-307.
    7. Machin, Stephen, 2011. "Houses and schools: valuation of school quality through the housing market: EALE 2010 presidential address," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47495, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Christer Gerdes, 2013. "Does immigration induce “native flight” from public schools?," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 50(2), pages 645-666, April.
    9. Gibbons, Stephen & Machin, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2013. "Valuing school quality using boundary discontinuities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 15-28.
    10. Eric J. Brunner & Stephen L. Ross, 2009. "Is the Median Voter Decisive? Evidence of 'Ends Against the Middle' From Referenda Voting Patterns," Working papers 2009-02, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised May 2010.
    11. Wong, Maisy, 2018. "A tractable approach to compare the hedonic and discrete choice frameworks," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 135-141.
    12. Machin, Stephen, 2011. "Houses and schools: Valuation of school quality through the housing market," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 723-729.
    13. Stephanie Riegg Cellini, 2009. "Crowded Colleges and College Crowd-Out: The Impact of Public Subsidies on the Two-Year College Market," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 1-30, August.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • R13 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General Equilibrium and Welfare Economic Analysis of Regional Economies

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