We study the effect of culture on important economic outcomes by using the 1970 census to examine the work and fertility behavior of women born in the U.S. but whose parents were born elsewhere. We use past female labor force participation and total fertility rates from the country of ancestry as our cultural proxies. These variables should capture, in addition to past economic and institutional conditions, the beliefs commonly held about the role of women in society (i.e., culture). Given the different time and place, only the beliefs embodied in the cultural proxies should be potentially relevant. We show that these cultural proxies have positive and significant explanatory power for individual work and fertility outcomes, even after controlling for possible indirect effects of culture. We examine alternative hypotheses for these positive correlations and show that neither unobserved human capital nor networks are likely to be responsible.
This paper examines the effect of different education financing systems on the level and distribution of resources devoted to public education. We focus on California, which in the 1970's was transformed from a system of mixed local and state financing to one of effectively pure state finance and subsequently saw its funding of public education fall between ten and fifteen percent relative to the rest of the US. We show that a simple political economy model of public finance can account for the bulk of this drop. We find that while the distribution of spending became more equal, this was mainly at the cost of a large reduction in spending in the wealthier communities with little increase for the poorer districts. Our model implies that there is no simple trade-off between equity and resources; we show that if California had moved to the opposite extreme and abolished state aid altogether, funding for public education would also have dropped by almost ten percent.
Standard models of public education provision predict an implicit transfer of resources from higher income individuals toward lower income individuals. Many studies have documented that public higher education involves a transfer in the reverse direction. We show that this pattern of redistribution is an equilibrium outcome in a model in which education is only partially publicly provided and individuals vote over the extent to which it is subsidized. We show that increased inequality in the income distribution makes this outcome more likely and that the efficiency implications of this exclusion depend on the wealth of the economy.