Chapter 7: Immigration and the political economy of public education
Decisions over public education can have enormous social consequences. In societies where public schools are well funded, it is often the case that children of all socioeconomic backgrounds share the same classrooms. This helps weave the social fabric by establishing relationships that cut across economic and ethnic strata, fostering solidarity, cooperation and tolerance for diversity. In contrast, in countries with low-quality public schools those who can afford it typically opt out into tuition-based private schools that may offer higher quality. In the current context of growing economic inequality, highquality public education has probably never been as essential as it is today. The goal of this chapter is to review the recent literature on the effects of large-scale immigration on public education.2 In particular, we are interested in what happens to the overall enrollment of students in public schools in countries where families have the choice of sending their children to public or to private schools. We also ask whether immigration has an effect on the school choices of native families and, in particular, whether there is a native flight out of public and toward tuition-based private schools. Third, we also examine the political-economy implications of these choices since the funding and, hence, the quality of public schools ultimately depend on the share of voters that support it, together with their income and their preferences over education.
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