The Effect of State-Level Rate Bill Abolition on School Attendance in the 19th Century United States

25 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021

See all articles by Richard Uhrig

Richard Uhrig

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Date Written: March 10, 2021

Abstract

Until the late 19th century, families in some municipalities paid small user fees, called rate bills, for their children to attend public schools. Urban school districts gradually repealed these fees and funded public education through local taxes. States eventually abolished rate bills, forcing rural areas to provide public education without tuition requirements. Using United States Census data and a staggered adoption difference-in-differences approach, I show that state-level rate bill abolition increased rural primary school attendance by 5.7 percentage points. These results suggest that small costs can be an obstacle to school attendance and inhibit the diffusion of education.

Keywords: free public education, rate bills, primary school attendance

JEL Classification: N31, I22, H75

Suggested Citation

Uhrig, Richard, The Effect of State-Level Rate Bill Abolition on School Attendance in the 19th Century United States (March 10, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3802015 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3802015

Richard Uhrig (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

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