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Economic Incentives and Political Institutions: Spending and Voting in School Budget Agenda

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  • Thomas Romer
  • Howard Rosenthal
  • Vincent Munley

Abstract

Allocation of resources in the local public sector involves economic and political forces. Spending for elementary and secondary education is a major area of public expenditure. In many states, the bulk of this spending is subject to referendum. In addition, grants-in-aid from state governments to local school districts form an important component of the district revenues. This paper has two main features. One is the characterization of local spending when the state aid structure is of the closed-end matching grant type. Under this structure, local tax price is endogenous, since the amount of state subsidy depends on the district's spending choice. The other main feature is the linking of spending proposals to referendum outcomes. In this way, our model makes use of voting data to shed light on the extent to which referenda constrain spending. The empirical setting is public school budget referenda in 544 New York school districts for the 1975-76 school year. Our econometric results and simulations based on them reveal considerable sensitivity of spending to the form of the grant structure, as well as to the referendum requirement. In addition, large school districts appear to behave more like "budget-maximizers" than do small districts, where proposals appear to be more in line with "median voter" demands.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal & Vincent Munley, 1987. "Economic Incentives and Political Institutions: Spending and Voting in School Budget Agenda," NBER Working Papers 2406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2406
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Goodman, Robert P, 1973. "Private Demands for Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 280-296, June.
    2. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 208-219, December.
    3. Filimon, Radu & Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1982. "Asymmetric information and agenda control : The bases of monopoly power in public spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 51-70, February.
    4. Arthur Denzau & Kevin Grier, 1984. "Determinants of local school spending: Some consistent estimates," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(2), pages 375-383, January.
    5. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
    6. Howard R. Bowen, 1943. "The Interpretation of Voting in the Allocation of Economic Resources," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 27-48.
    7. Welch, W. P., 1981. "Estimating school district expenditure functions under conditions of closed-end matching aid," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 61-75, July.
    8. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1982. "Median Voters or Budget Maximizers: Evidence from School Expenditure Referenda," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(4), pages 556-578, October.
    9. Moffitt, Robert A., 1984. "The effects of grants-in-aid on state and local expenditures : The case of AFDC," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 279-305, April.
    10. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1979. "Bureaucrats Versus Voters: On the Political Economy of Resource Allocation by Direct Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(4), pages 563-587.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cutler, David M & Elmendorf, Douglas W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1993. "Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(Supplemen), pages 178-198.

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