NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Curious Dawn of American Public Schools

Sun Go, Peter H. Lindert

NBER Working Paper No. 13335
Issued in August 2007
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ED   POL   PE

Three factors help to explain why school enrollments in the Northern United States were higher than those in the South and in most of Europe by 1850. One was affordability: the northern states had higher real incomes, cheaper teachers, and greater local tax support. The second was the greater autonomy of local governments. The third was the greater diffusion of voting power among the citizenry in much of the North, especially in rural communities. The distribution of local political voice appears to be a robust predictor of tax support and enrollments, both within and between regions.

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This paper was revised on June 3, 2008

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