Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Willingness to Fund Public Education in a Rural, Retirement Destination County

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Willingness to Fund Public Education in a Rural, Retirement Destination County

Article excerpt

Citation: Clark, C. D., Lambert, D. M., Park, W. M., & Wilcox, M. D. (2009). Willingness to fund public education in a rural, retirement destination county. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 24(6). Retrieved [date] from

Retiree recruitment is a burgeoning economic development strategy among rural communities despite uncertainty over whether later-life migrants will bring with them "Gray Gold" in the form of economic development or "Gray Peril" in the form of a reduced willingness to support the provision of local public services such as education. The results of a survey regarding support for a hypothetical increase in education funding in a rural, retirement destination county in Tennessee indicates that residents who migrated to the county at or after retirement were not less, but more, supportive of local education funding than other residents. The results also suggest that this support was motivated by both altruism and self-interest. Previous experience in higher-funding jurisdictions was also a key factor in explaining migrant willingness to support increased expenditures. Finally, as a check on the validity of the survey instrument, a comparison is made between the aggregate survey results and the results of three county-wide referenda on school funding.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


Rural communities are increasingly focusing on retiree recruitment as a means of economic development (Murphy, 2005; Reeder, 1998; Vestal, 2006). The "Baby Boomer" generation currently reaching retirement age makes an attractive target as it accounts for over 28 percent of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006) and has accumulated substantial savings due to its historically high incomes (Congressional Budget Office, 2004). For example, an estimated 400,000 retirees each year-with an average of $320,000 to spend on a new home-will choose to relocate beyond their state borders over the next two decades (Howell, 2006). The South and West continue to be popular destinations for these migrants (He & Schachter, 2003), although more are choosing to locate in areas outside traditional retirement areas in Florida and Arizona (Vestal, 2006). Tennessee, for example, is experiencing substantial later-life migration and ranked seventh nationally in net migration of people aged 65 or older from 1995 to 2000 (He & Schachter, 2003). One factor driving Tennessee's increasing popularity as a retirement destination is the "half-back" phenomenon; later-life migrants from the Northeast and Midwest who originally moved to Florida change their minds and move half-way back.

However, the migration of retirees into rural communities has raised concerns over the continued provision of local public services in these communities. For some services, the concern is one of congestion. Namely, would an influx of retirees increase demand for public services and limit the access of long time residents to these services? For other services, the concern is over the effect later-life migration might have on the level of the service provided. Education provides perhaps the best example of the latter. Would later-life migrants, with little or no connection to the local public school system, oppose increased or continued funding of the system to either reduce their tax burden or increase the provision of public services which offer them more direct benefits?

Scrutiny of these concerns in the academic literature is approaching its fourth decade and shows no signs of abating. To the contrary, the flood of Baby Boomers currently reaching retirement age and the increasing interest in pursuing retirees as a means towards economic development suggests that there is a growing audience for this research among policymakers and academics. Retiree recruitment is particularly appealing to local governments because it has the potential to increase property and sales tax revenues ("Gray Gold") without engendering equivalent increases in education expenditures, which typically command the largest share of local government expenditures. …

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