Social preferences of Australian parents

The Australian (conservative) government has finally embraced the Gonski school funding reforms. For those outside Australia, ‘Gonski’ (named after David Gonski who lead the review) is a ‘needs based funding model’ where schools with low socio-economics student cohorts receive more funding than comparative schools with a cohort of higher socio-economic students.  Gonski was originally implemented by the previous Labor government and has proven to be extremely popular with the electorate. Even though up to 30% of students in some states (for example Victoria) attend private schools.

Australia has a ‘universal voucher’ system where funding is on a per student basis out of national taxes. Via state governments for public schools and directly for private schools.  Consequently, private schools in Australia are partly funded by the government plus additional fees paid by parents.

It is interesting given Australia’s flexibility in school choice – mixing public and private education – that there is very strong support for a funding model that re-balances natural inequities within an education system due differences in wealth.  In contrast to the USA where electoral support for a progressive funding model for education seems to be lacking. The difference between Australia and the USA may have something to do with the social preferences of parents.

Social Preferences

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‘Determinants of Parent School Choice’ Online Survey

I’m a PhD student at RMIT investigating the underlying motivations of parent school choice from an economics perspective.  The objective of this research is to understand the behavioural decision rules used by parents in choosing schools for their children.  This survey is anonymous and may take up to 30 mins to complete. A brief bio about myself can be found here.

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The key focus of this survey is the idea that education is an investment in a child’s future. Consequently, investments in a child’s education (such as school choice) are generally considered to be governed by the same general economic principles that we see in similarly complex decision making. However, parents usually make these decisions with limited time and resources.  This survey seeks to test this assumption by understanding the relationship between school choices and economic behaviour linked to risk and social preferences.  We draw on insights from behavioural economics to test whether decision behaviour is consistent across different types of choices and different contexts in which choices are made. This survey follows on from my qualitative research into school choice (Victoria, Australia).  It also draws on some interesting observations coming out of the linguistic analysis of these qualitative interviews which indicated the potential existence of distinct economic decision types influenced by economic risk and social preferences.  The survey also draws inspiration from Jonathon’s Haidt’s research on how ‘Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations’. The other investigators for this research project are my PhD supervisors Professor Jason Potts, Dr Foula Kopanidis from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance & Marketing and the research has been approved by RMIT’s Human Research Ethics committee (No.18945).

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