IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Homeowners, Renters and the Political Economy of Property Taxation

Listed author(s):
  • Eric J. Brunner

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Rebecca K. Simonsen

    (Columbia University)

Many economists have cited fiscal illusion as an argument against specific types of taxes arguing that less visible taxes may cause voters to systematically underestimate the true burden of taxation. The higher willingness of renters to support an increase in the property tax, often referred to as renter illusion, is often used as one of the classic examples of fiscal illusion. In this paper we use detailed micro-level survey data of registered voters in California to provide new evidence on the renter illusion hypothesis. The survey data contains voter responses to two key questions: 1) their willingness to pay higher property taxes to expand funding for public services and 2) their willingness to pay higher sales taxes to fund those services. Using a difference-in-differences estimation strategy to control for individual specific preferences for public service spending, we find first that renters are approximately 10 to 15 percentage points more likely than homeowners to favor a property tax increase over a sales tax increase to fund public services. However, further analysis indicates that our results are not driven by the voting behavior of renters. Results based solely on the sample of renters indicate that renters are indifferent between a property tax increase and a sales tax increase. In contrast, homeowners strongly oppose a property tax increase relative to a sales tax increase. These results cast doubt on the strong version of the renter illusion hypothesis that suggests renters believe they do not pay the property tax. Further analysis reveals that the strong opposition among homeowners to the property tax is not associated with the relative tax burden faced by homeowners. Examining the variation in tax burden created by Proposition 13 in California, we find that homeowner aversion to the property tax does not increase with the homeowner’s relative tax burden. These findings of homeowner aversion to property taxes are consistent with recent work suggesting that salience matters when voters evaluate taxes, but also suggest that increased salience does not necessarily lead to more careful consideration of individual tax burdens.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://web2.uconn.edu/economics/working/2013-30.pdf
File Function: Full text
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2013-30.

as
in new window

Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2013
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2013-30
Contact details of provider: Postal:
University of Connecticut 365 Fairfield Way, Unit 1063 Storrs, CT 06269-1063

Phone: (860) 486-4889
Fax: (860) 486-4463
Web page: http://www.econ.uconn.edu/

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as
in new window


  1. Barrow, Lisa & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2004. "Using market valuation to assess public school spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1747-1769, August.
  2. Blumkin, Tomer & Ruffle, Bradley J. & Ganun, Yosef, 2012. "Are income and consumption taxes ever really equivalent? Evidence from a real-effort experiment with real goods," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1200-1219.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cattaneo, M. Alejandra & Wolter, Stefan C., 2009. "Are the elderly a threat to educational expenditures?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 225-236, June.
  6. Carroll, Robert & Yinger, John, 1994. "Is the Property Tax a Benefit Tax? The Case of Rental Housing," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 295-316, June.
  7. Brueckner, Jan K., 1982. "A test for allocative efficiency in the local public sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 311-331, December.
  8. Brunner, Eric & Sonstelie, Jon, 2003. "Homeowners, property values, and the political economy of the school voucher," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 239-257, September.
  9. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
  10. Brueckner, Jan K., 1979. "Property values, local public expenditure and economic efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 223-245, March.
  11. Stephanie Riegg Cellini & Fernando Ferreira & Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "The Value of School Facility Investments: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 215-261.
  12. Rebecca J. Campbell, 2004. "Leviathan and Fiscal Illusion in Local Government Overlapping Jurisdictions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 120(3_4), pages 301-329, 09.
  13. Brunner, Eric J. & Ross, Stephen L., 2010. "Is the median voter decisive? Evidence from referenda voting patterns," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 898-910, December.
  14. Marika Cabral & Caroline Hoxby, 2012. "The Hated Property Tax: Salience, Tax Rates, and Tax Revolts," NBER Working Papers 18514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Dollery, Brian E & Worthington, Andrew C, 1996. " The Empirical Analysis of Fiscal Illusion," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(3), pages 261-297, September.
  16. Dollery, Brian & Worthington, Andrew, 1999. "Fiscal Illusion at the Local Level: An Empirical Test Using Australian Municipal Data," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 75(228), pages 37-48, March.
  17. Eric J. Brunner & Jennifer Imazeki & Stephen L. Ross, 2010. "Universal Vouchers and Racial and Ethnic Segregation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 912-927, November.
  18. Bates, Laurie J. & Santerre, Rexford E., 2003. "The impact of a state mandated expenditure floor on aggregate property values," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 531-540, May.
  19. Leah J. Tsoodle & Tracy M. Turner, 2008. "Property Taxes and Residential Rents," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 36(1), pages 63-80, 03.
  20. Oates, Wallace E., 2005. "Property taxation and local public spending: the renter effect," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 419-431, May.
  21. J. Biegeleisen & David Sjoquist, 1988. "Rational voting applied to choice of taxes," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 57(1), pages 39-47, April.
  22. Amy Finkelstein, 2009. "E-ztax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(3), pages 969-1010.
  23. Reid, Gary J, 1991. "Tests of Institutional versus Non-institutional Models of Local Public Expenditure Determination," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 315-333, June.
  24. Brueckner, Jan K., 1983. "Property value maximization and public sector efficiency," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 1-15, July.
  25. Gemmell, Norman & Morrissey, Oliver & Pinar, Abuzer, 2002. "Fiscal Illusion and Political Accountability: Theory and Evidence from Two Local Tax Regimes in Britain," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 110(3-4), pages 199-224, March.
  26. Anderson, Nathan B., 2012. "Market value assessment and idiosyncratic tax-price risk: Understanding the consequences of alternative definitions of the property tax base," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 545-560.
  27. Rupert Sausgruber & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2005. "Testing the Mill hypothesis of fiscal illusion," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 39-68, January.
  28. Figlio, David N. & Fletcher, Deborah, 2012. "Suburbanization, demographic change and the consequences for school finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1144-1153.
  29. Heyndels, Bruno & Smolders, Carine, 1994. "Fiscal Illusion at the Local Level: Empirical Evidence for the Flemish Municipalities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 80(3-4), pages 325-338, September.
  30. Brunner, Eric & Balsdon, Ed, 2004. "Intergenerational conflict and the political economy of school spending," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 369-388, September.
  31. Schokkaert, Erik, 1987. "Preferences and demand for local public spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 175-188, November.
  32. Deborah Fletcher & Lawrence W. Kenny, 2008. "The Influence of the Elderly on School Spending in a Median Voter Framework," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 3(3), pages 283-315, July.
  33. Sean Corcoran & William N. Evans, 2010. "Income Inequality, the Median Voter, and the Support for Public Education," NBER Working Papers 16097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Jorge Martinez- Vazquez, 1983. "Renters' Illusion or Savvy?," Public Finance Review, , vol. 11(2), pages 237-247, April.
  35. Rothstein, Paul, 1994. "Learning the preferences of governments and voters from proposed spending and aggregated votes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 361-389, July.
  36. Lovell, Michael C, 1978. "Spending for Education: The Exercise of Public Choice," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(4), pages 487-495, November.
  37. Schwab, Robert M. & Zampelli, Ernest M., 1987. "Disentangling the demand function from the production function for local public services : The case of public safety," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 245-260, July.
  38. Daniel P. McMillen, 2013. "The Effect of Appeals on Assessment Ratio Distributions: Some Nonparametric Approaches," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 41(1), pages 165-191, 03.
  39. H. Spencer Banzhaf & Wallace E. Oates, 2012. "On Fiscal Illusion and Ricardian Equivalence in Local Public Finance," NBER Working Papers 18040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  40. Carroll, Robert & Yinger, John, 1994. "Is the Property Tax a Benefit Tax? The Case of Rental Housing," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 295-316, June.
  41. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "Rational Irrationality and the Microfoundations of Political Failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 107(3-4), pages 311-331, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2013-30. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark McConnel)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.