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Distributional effects of educational improvements :are we using the wrong model ?

  • Bourguignon, Francois
  • Rogers, F. Halsey

Measuring the incidence of public spending in education requires an intergenerational framework distinguishing between what current and future generations - that is, parents and children - give and receive. In standard distributional incidence analysis, households are assumed to receive a benefit equal to what is spent on their children enrolled in the public schooling system and, implicitly, to pay a fee proportional to their income. This paper shows that, in an intergenerational framework, this is equivalent to assuming perfectly altruistic individuals, in the sense of the dynastic model, and perfect capital markets. But in practice, credit markets are imperfect and poor households cannot borrow against the future income of their children. The authors show that under such circumstances, standard distributional incidence analysis may greatly over-estimate the progressivity of public spending in education: educational improvements that are progressive in the long-run steady state may actually be regressive for the current generation of poor adults. This is especially true where service delivery in education is highly inefficient - as it is in poor districts of many developing countries - so that the educational benefits received are relatively low in comparison with the cost of public spending. The results have implications for both policy measures and analytical approaches.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4427.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4427
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  1. Michael Kremer & Nazmul Chaudhury & F. Halsey Rogers & Karthik Muralidharan & Jeffrey Hammer, 2005. "Teacher Absence in India: A Snapshot," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 658-667, 04/05.
  2. Giuseppe Bertola, 1991. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," NBER Working Papers 3851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jimenez, Emmanuel, 1986. "The Public Subsidization of Education and Health in Developing Countries: A Review of Equity and Efficiency," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 1(1), pages 111-29, January.
  4. Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281.
  5. Pritchett, Lant & Filmer,Deon, 1997. "What educational production functions really show : a positive theory of education spending," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1795, The World Bank.
  6. Brunner, Johann K., 1993. "Transition from a pay-as-you-go to a fully-funded pension system: The case of differing individuals and intragenerational fairness," Discussion Papers, Series I 266, University of Konstanz, Department of Economics.
  7. Robert J. Barro & Gary S. Becker, . "Fertility Choice in a Model of Economic Growth," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 88-8, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  8. Brautigam, Deborah A & Knack, Stephen, 2004. "Foreign Aid, Institutions, and Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 255-85, January.
  9. repec:oup:qjecon:v:119:y:2004:i:2:p:678-704 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Gertler, Paul & Glewwe, Paul, 1990. "The willingness to pay for education in developing countries : Evidence from rural Peru," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 251-275, August.
  11. Burgess, Robin & Stern, Nicholas, 1993. "Taxation and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 762-830, June.
  12. David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger, 2000. "Expenditure incidence in Africa: microeconomic evidence," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(3), pages 329-347, September.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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