Three Essays on State and Local Public Finance

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This dissertation is comprised of three essays, separated into three chapters. In the first chapter, I estimate the effect of education spending on district-level student outcomes in 24 states by leveraging changes in revenue driven by property value variation. I interact state-level changes in property values with fixed school finance formulas that measure how state aid and local revenue respond to those changes to create a simulated instrument for school spending. I measure a leave-one-out mean change in property values for school districts with administrative data I compiled from individual states on property values for over 7,000 school districts. The instrument is highly predictive of changes in revenue and spending. My estimates suggest that a 10 percent increase in spending improves graduation rates by 2.1 to 4.4 percentage points and student test scores by 0.05 to 0.09 standard deviations. These results suggest that market variation in property values affects student outcomes through existing school finance formulas. The second chapter documents the existence and magnitude of an intergenerational effect of cigarette taxes on smoking initiation, which flows from older to younger members of the community. We estimate a discrete-time hazard model with cigarette taxes from before an individual is at risk of beginning smoking (from birth to age seven). A $0.25 increase in cigarette taxes during childhood decreases the hazard of later initiating smoking by 12.5 percent. We find no evidence that contemporaneous cigarette taxes affect smoking initiation. Prior work understates the effect of cigarette taxes on smoking by not considering this intergenerational channel. The final chapter explores whether increased resources for traditional public school districts helps stem the flow of students to charter schools in Ohio. To do this, we separately examine the impact of school resource expansions for capital projects and those for general purposes (current operating expenses, instructional expenditures, support services, etc.) on the fraction of potential traditional public school students attending a charter school, student outcomes, and housing values. Both types of resource expansion reduce the fraction of potential students attending digital charters but have no effect on students lost to brick-and-mortar charters or student achievement.

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Education Finance; Cigarette Tax; Local Public Finance; Property Tax; Economics; Labor Economics; public economics


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Lovenheim, Michael F.

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Kenkel, Donald S.
Fitzpatrick, Maria D.

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Ph. D., Economics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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