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A New Cost Efficiency Measure For Not-For-Profit Firms: Evidence Of A Link Between Inefficiency And Large Endowments

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  • Joseph P. Hughes

    ()
    (Rutgers University)

Abstract

Cost functions and cost efficiency are commonly estimated for industries with detailed data on production and cost, both for firms that are for profit as well as not for profit. The data on not-for-profits obtained from the IRS Form 990 lack these details and, consequently, encourage substitution of the ratio of program expenses to total expenses to gauge performance. While a larger program expense ratio captures better administrative cost efficiency, it does not gauge best-practice cost and the extent to which an organization’s administrative costs exceed best practice. Using the Form 990 data, this study constructs an administrative cost function for not-for-profits and uses the distribution-free technique of estimating a best-practice cost frontier to gauge the relative efficiency of not-for-profit organizations. Focusing on not-for-profit hospitals and their holdings of liquid assets, the empirical evidence is consistent with Jensen’s free cash flow hypothesis: hospitals holding liquid assets in excess of a benchmark have lower program expense ratios and lower cost efficiency. In addition, the CEOs of more cost efficient hospitals earn higher compensation. The agreement of the evidence on agency problems related to excess holdings of liquid assets from the program expense ratio and administrative cost efficiency reinforce the credibility of the latter as a measure of the performance of not-for-profit organizations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 201129.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 30 Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:201129

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Keywords: not-for-profit; cost efficiency; free cash flow hypothesis;

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  1. Core, John E. & Guay, Wayne R. & Verdi, Rodrigo S., 2006. "Agency problems of excess endowment holdings in not-for-profit firms," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 307-333, September.
  2. Allen N. Berger & Loretta J. Mester, 1997. "Inside the black box: what explains differences in the efficiencies of financial institutions?," Working Papers 97-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Fisman, Raymond & Glenn Hubbard, R., 2005. "Precautionary savings and the governance of nonprofit organizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2231-2243, December.
  4. Allen N. Berger & Timothy H. Hannan, 1994. "The efficiency cost of market power in the banking industry: a test of the "quiet life" and related hypotheses," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 94-36, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Stiroh, Kevin J., 2000. "How did bank holding companies prosper in the 1990s?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(11), pages 1703-1745, November.
  6. Altunbas, Yener & Evans, Lynne & Molyneux, Philip, 2001. "Bank Ownership and Efficiency," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(4), pages 926-54, November.
  7. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-29, May.
  8. Schmidt, Peter & Sickles, Robin C, 1984. "Production Frontiers and Panel Data," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 2(4), pages 367-74, October.
  9. DeYoung, Robert, 1997. "A diagnostic test for the distribution-free efficiency estimator: An example using U.S. commercial bank data," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 243-249, April.
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