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School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores

Author

Listed:
  • David Card

    (Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences and Princeton University)

  • A. Abigail Payne

    (University of Toronto)

Abstract

In this paper we study the effects of school finance reforms on the distribution of school spending across richer and poorer districts, and the consequences of spending equalization for the distribution of SAT scores across children from different family backgrounds. We use school district data from the 1977 and 1992 Censuses of Governments to measure the correlation between state funding per pupil and median family income in each district. We find that states where the school finance system was declared unconstitutional in the 1980s increased the relative funding of low-income districts. Increases in state funds available to poorer districts led to comparable or only slightly smaller increases in the relative spending of these districts, implying significant equalization of expenditures per pupil across richer and poorer districts. Using micro samples of SAT scores from this same period, we study the effect of changes in spending inequality within states on the gaps in test scores for children from different family backgrounds. We develop a two-sample procedure to estimate the fraction of students from each background group who write the test, and use these fractions to adjust for selectivity biases in observed test score outcomes. We find some evidence that the equalization of spending across districts leads to a narrowing of test score outcomes across family background groups.

Suggested Citation

  • David Card & A. Abigail Payne, 1997. "School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores," Working Papers 766, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:387
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    school financing; test scores; equalization;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid

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