Local tax attitudes change with degree

June 19, 1998

Efforts to increase the number of students could affect demands for local services, writes Harriet Swain.

Research has shown that graduates are more likely than those without degrees to back higher spending on local schools, services for children and street cleaning. They are significantly more likely to want extra cash for schools, saying it would be in their interests and those of the community. Graduates are less likely, however, to view more spending on leisure services as good for the area.

Analysis of attitudes towards local taxation and spending from the 1996 British Social Attitudes survey, which was carried out by the independent institute Social and Community Planning Research, reveals striking differences between people of varying socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.

Richer households are less likely than poorer families to see higher spending on local housing as of benefit to them or their area. But they appreciate the communal benefit of spending on the elderly. The rich also have more enthusiasm than the less well-off about spending on schools, police and leisure.

Readers of broadsheet newspapers seem more inclined than those who read tabloids to want less spent on street cleaning, local housing and local police.

Researchers at the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which made the analysis, said differences in attitude of degree-holders may not be a result of more education. It may reflect the fact that they probably earn more or that leaving home to study has altered their views.

Among all groups, only a minority seems to favour more spending on local services overall if they will have to pay more local taxes.

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