Monday, September 13, 2010

Double Income Goes for Better School Districts

Robert H. Frank, in Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, reports this study from knowledge-class hero Elizabeth Warren:

As Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi have shown, ... most of the extra income earned by families as a result of the move to two-earner couples was consumed by higher housing prices as these families sought to buy homes in safer neighborhoods with better schools. (66)

Buying for better schools is a rational knowledge-class investment, and safer neighborhoods is a rational choice for every class.

If the cheaper places to live can make their schools better, then smart, able couples will move there. This would have the double benefit to the families of getting better schools for less, and allowing the couple (mostly the mothers) to cut back on work and invest the time in a happier life for the whole family.

1 comment:

Whit said...

I think you miss something important. There may be, and indeed are, many other reasons for living in those more expensive neighborhoods including, as the author suggests, greater safety. These reasons go beyond having a bigger house or nicer landscaping.

Now perhaps if schools were better (and I am a hawk on better schools for the folks that already live in these less expensive neighborhoods so those children have a better chance), more middle class families would move in and transform those neighborhoods by making them cleaner, safer, and generally more "middle class friendly". That is, there would be a cultural shift in those neighborhoods.

That cultural shift, of course, is not always entirely welcome by the people already in those neighborhoods.

So it's a chicken and egg problem. But by all means, let's figure out a way to make schools better with charters, vouchers and similar reforms.