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THE PUBLIC SCHOOL AS A PUBLIC GOOD: DIRECT AND INDIRECT PATHWAYS TO COMMUNITY SATISFACTION

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT:  Individuals’ satisfaction with their community can play an important role in urban politics, and the quality of public schools is a key predictor of community satisfaction. However, most discussions of public schools focus only on their educational and social benefits for children, although others expand the scope to consider benefits to their parents as well. In this paper, we take a broader view, arguing that local public schools are providers of public goods that potentially benefit all members of a community, including those without school‐aged children. Using data from the Soul of the Community survey, we examine the relationship between public school quality and community satisfaction in 26 U.S. communities, and find no differences between individuals with and without school‐aged children at home. Furthermore, for those without children, we find that the effect of schools on community satisfaction is partially mediated by community‐based social capital, suggesting that public schools provide both direct and indirect pathways to community satisfaction. We conclude with a discussion of these findings, focusing on their implications for the maintenance and structure of public schools in American cities.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9906.2011.00595.x

Affiliations: Michigan State University

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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