Income Inequality, the Median Voter, and the Support for Public Education
Using a panel of U.S. school districts spanning 1970 - 2000, we examine the relationship between income inequality and fiscal support for public education. In contrast with recent theoretical and empirical work suggesting a negative relationship between inequality and public spending, we find results consistent with a median voter model, in which inequality that reduces the median voter's tax share induces higher local spending on public education. We estimate that 12 to 22 percent of the increase in local school spending over this period is attributable to rising inequality.
This research is supported by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation as part of their special program on the Social Dimensions of Inequality, and by the National Science Foundation. We wish to thank Robert Schwab, Caroline Hoxby, Howard Rosenthal, Jon Sonstelie, Sheila Murray, Amy Harris, Jennifer Godwin, Wally Oates, and participants in the NBER Economics of Education program for a number of helpful suggestions. All errors are solely our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- As income inequality has grown in local school districts, so too have the local dollars flowing into elementary and secondary education...