Taxing Ourselves: Understanding School Tax Elections

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Kobren, Martin Edward
Morris, Irwin L
Americans have increasingly segregated themselves over the last 40 years by wealth and political orientation. I argue that this segregation affects the way communities react to school tax ballot issues, which are ostensibly non-partisan matters. Using a database containing 232 school tax elections that took place during 2011 in 10 states, I show that in affluent communities that favor Democrats, high levels of educational attainment make it more likely that a community will adopt a tax increase. By contrast, in downscale communities that favor Democrats, economic concerns play an important role in election outcome; large percentages of homeowners decrease the likelihood of passage while large percentages of renters and poor people make tax increases more likely. In downscale Republican leaning communities, a sense of attachment to the community, indicated by large percentages of households with members who are at least 60 years of age, small community sizes and long tenures in the same house, make it more likely that the community will adopt a school tax increase. Finally, in affluent Republican oriented communities, school tax increases are extremely difficult to pass and become more so as community size increases. High levels of educational attainment tend to moderate the impact of Republican anti-tax ideology and high population sizes to make school tax increases more likely.