Self-Interest in Public Service: Evidence from School Board Elections

55 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2022 Last revised: 27 May 2022

See all articles by Stephen B. Billings

Stephen B. Billings

University of Colorado - Boulder

Hugh Macartney

Duke University - Department of Economics

Geunyong Park

University of Rochester

John D. Singleton

University of Rochester - Department of Economics

Date Written: February 2022

Abstract

In this paper, we show that the election of a new school board member causes home values in their neighborhood to rise. This increase is identified using narrowly-decided contests and is driven by non-Democratic members, whose neighborhoods appreciate about 4% on average relative to those of losing candidates. We find that student test scores in the neighborhood public schools of non-Democratic winners also relatively increase, but this effect is driven by changing student composition, including via the manipulation of attendance zones, rather than improvements in school quality (as measured by test score value-added). Notably, we detect no differential changes when comparing neighborhood or scholastic outcomes between winning and losing Democratic school board candidates. These results suggest that partisan affiliation is correlated with private motivations for seeking public office.

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Suggested Citation

Billings, Stephen B. and Macartney, Hugh and Park, Geunyong and Singleton, John D., Self-Interest in Public Service: Evidence from School Board Elections (February 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w29791, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4045369

Stephen B. Billings (Contact Author)

University of Colorado - Boulder ( email )

Leeds School of Business
Koelbel Building
Boulder, CO US 80309
United States

Hugh Macartney

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Geunyong Park

University of Rochester ( email )

John D. Singleton

University of Rochester - Department of Economics ( email )

Harkness Hall
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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