The Effect of State-Level Rate Bill Abolition on School Attendance in the 19th Century United States
25 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 10, 2021
Until the late 19th century, families in some municipalities paid small user fees, called rate bills, for their children to attend public schools. Urban school districts gradually repealed these fees and funded public education through local taxes. States eventually abolished rate bills, forcing rural areas to provide public education without tuition requirements. Using United States Census data and a staggered adoption difference-in-differences approach, I show that state-level rate bill abolition increased rural primary school attendance by 5.7 percentage points. These results suggest that small costs can be an obstacle to school attendance and inhibit the diffusion of education.
Keywords: free public education, rate bills, primary school attendance
JEL Classification: N31, I22, H75
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation