The Political Economy of School Size: Evidence from Chilean Rural Areas

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile Documento de Trabajo No. 375

36 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2010

See all articles by Francisco A. Gallego

Francisco A. Gallego

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Carlos Rodriguez-Sickert

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; Santa Fe Institute

E. Sauma

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Date Written: May 1, 2010

Abstract

Public schools in Chile receive a per-student subsidy depending on enrollment, and are managed by local governments that operate under soft budget constraints. In this paper, we study the effects of this system on per-student expenditures. Per-student expenditures on rural areas are 30% higher than in urban areas. We find that about 75% of this difference is due to the fact that rural public schools are significantly smaller and thus do not benefit from economies of scale. Besides, we also show that in our preferred estimates about 50% of the students in rural areas could be moved to schools that could exploit economies of scale - i.e., these students could attend bigger schools traveling at most an hour a day in total. We show that even if we use conservative average speed rates or control for transportation, utility and infrastructure costs, there is a sizeable share of the students that could be consolidated. We argue that local governments that have soft budget constraints do not consolidate these schools giving the existing potential because of political factors: closing schools is harmful for mayors in electoral terms. Consistent with this claim, we find that a decrease in the degree of political competition in areas with better access to non-voucher transfers from the central government (i.e. with softer budget constraints) decreases the extent of the inefficiency.

Keywords: School size, rural schools, consolidation, Chile, education decentralization, political economy, soft budget constraints

JEL Classification: I22, H52, H75

Suggested Citation

Gallego, Francisco A. and Rodriguez-Sickert, Carlos and Sauma, E., The Political Economy of School Size: Evidence from Chilean Rural Areas (May 1, 2010). Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile Documento de Trabajo No. 375. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1718706 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1718706

Francisco A. Gallego (Contact Author)

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile ( email )

Casilla 76
Correo 17
Santiago
Chile

HOME PAGE: http://www.economia.puc.cl/fgallego

Carlos Rodriguez-Sickert

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile ( email )

Av Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins 340
Santiago, Región Metropolitana 8331150
Chile
5626864657 (Phone)
5625521834 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.puc.cl/sociologia/carlosrodriguez.htm

Santa Fe Institute ( email )

1399 Hyde Park Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501

HOME PAGE: http://www.santafe.edu/education/international/intlfel03/rodriguez-sickert.php

E. Sauma

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile ( email )

Av Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins 340
Santiago, Región Metropolitana 8331150
Chile

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