Why is free education so popular? A political economy explanation

Juan A. Correa, Yijia Lu, Francisco Parro, Mauricio Villena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper analyzes the political support for different funding regimes of education in a one-person, one-vote democracy. We focus the analysis on four systems that have had a preponderant presence in the political debate on education: a private system, a public system that delivers the same resources to each student (universal-free education), a public system that intends to equalize results, and a public system that aims to maximize the output of the economy. We show that a system of universal free education is the Condorcet winner. The level of income inequality and the degree to which income distribution is skewed to the right are key factors behind this conclusion. We also show that the voting outcome of public versus private funding for education depends crucially on the type of public funding under consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-991
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Economic Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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