Why Do Households Without Children Support Local Public Schools?

49 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2006 Last revised: 11 Jul 2010

See all articles by Christian A. L. Hilber

Christian A. L. Hilber

London School of Economics (LSE) - Department of Geography and Environment; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC)

Christopher J. Mayer

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 2004

Abstract

While residents receive similar benefits from many local government programs, only about one-third of all households have children in public schools. We argue that capitalization of school spending into house prices can encourage residents to support spending on schools, even if the residents themselves will never have children in schools. We identify a proxy for the extent of capitalization-the supply of land available for new development-and show that in response to a plausibly exogenous spending shock in Massachusetts, towns with little undeveloped land have larger changes in house prices, but smaller changes in quantity (construction). Towns with little available land also spend more on schools. We extend these results using data from school districts in 46 states, showing that per pupil spending is positively related to the percentage of developed land. This positive correlation persists only in districts where the median resident is a homeowner and is stronger in districts with more elderly residents who do not use school services and have a shorter expected duration in their home. These findings support models in which house price capitalization encourages more efficient provision of public services and may explain why some elderly residents support school spending.

Suggested Citation

Hilber, Christian A. L. and Mayer, Christopher J., Why Do Households Without Children Support Local Public Schools? (October 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10804. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=601106

Christian A. L. Hilber

London School of Economics (LSE) - Department of Geography and Environment ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) ( email )

United Kingdom

Christopher J. Mayer (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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