School Spirit: Legislator School Ties and State Funding for Higher Education

Aaron K. Chatterji, Joowon Kim, Ryan C. McDevitt

NBER Working Paper No. 24818
Issued in July 2018, Revised in July 2018
NBER Program(s):The Public Economics Program, The Political Economy Program

We explore a new mechanism to understand state funding for public colleges and universities by leveraging data on the educational experiences of state legislators, specifically if and where they received postsecondary education. Using novel, hand-collected data from 2002 through 2014, we provide comprehensive documentation for the first time in the literature on the educational backgrounds of state legislators. We find a statistically significant, positive association between the share of legislators who attended their states' public institutions and state funding for their entire public higher-education system. We also find a similar positive relationship between the share of state legislators who attended particular campuses of the state's public university system and funding for those campuses. This relationship is more pronounced among publicly educated legislators who represent legislative districts close to their alma mater's district, and becomes most consequential when the legislator's district contains his or her alma mater. We discuss the implications of our findings for academic studies on how politics and legislators' personal experiences in influence support for higher education.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24818

Published: Aaron K. Chatterji & Joowon Kim & Ryan C. McDevitt, 2018. "School spirit: Legislator school ties and state funding for higher education," Journal of Public Economics, vol 164, pages 254-269. citation courtesy of

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