Do you think that the poor outlook for education limits the ability of those without children to see that there are positive externalities from which they can benefit?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When you refer to the “poor outlook,” I assume that you mean that the educational system is not doing well and that public schools do not provide a quality education.  I assume that you are asking whether this means that people would be less likely to pay to support education (in line with your previous question about funding education) because they do not think that it will provide them with any benefits.  I do not think that this is the case.  I think, instead, that there are other reasons why people would be unlikely to donate money to pay for public education.

First, there is the fact that they might not see the possibility of positive externalities.  I think that people do not, in general, believe that they will benefit by giving other people’s kids a quality education.  This is not because the educational system is bad.  It is because people do not necessarily understand the benefits that come from other people becoming educated.

Second, and more importantly, I believe that people would not donate money because of the free rider problem.  What this means is that they would feel that someone else would be likely to donate the money and they, themselves, would be able to get the benefits of public education without having to pay for them.  The benefits that come from education are a public good.  If education helps our whole society, we cannot exclude people from the benefits because they do not donate.  Therefore, many people will not donate because they will think that they can act as “free riders.”

Thus, I think that it would be hard to get people to donate money to education because A) they might not understand that quality education for others helps them and B) even if they do, they might want to be free riders.

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