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Subsidies, Hierarchy and Peers: The Awkward Economics of Higher Education

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  • Gordon C. Winston

Abstract

Higher education is an industry where markets don't clear, prices on average cover less than a third of production costs, the resulting student subsidies are given in strikingly different amounts by different schools, creating a sharply hierarchical market. And an input important to production can be bought only from the firm's own customers. This paper describes the resulting structure of costs, prices, subsidies, and hierarchy using an augmented theory of nonprofits and 1995 national data to show their magnitudes and suggest their often significant implications. Public intuition and economic models of firms, industries, and welfare often yield distorted understanding and dubious public policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon C. Winston, 1999. "Subsidies, Hierarchy and Peers: The Awkward Economics of Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 13-36, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:13:y:1999:i:1:p:13-36
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.1.13
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gordon Winston & David Zimmerman, 2004. "Peer Effects in Higher Education," NBER Chapters,in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 395-424 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Becker, Gary S, 1991. "A Note on Restaurant Pricing and Other Examples of Social Influences on Price," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1109-1116, October.
    3. Basu, Kaushik, 1989. "A Theory of Association: Social Status, Prices and Markets," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(4), pages 653-671, October.
    4. Dennis W. Carlton & Gustavo E. Bamberger & Roy J. Epstein, 1995. "Antitrust and Higher Education: Was There a Conspiracy to Restrict Financial Aid?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(1), pages 131-147, Spring.
    5. Berhman, J-R & Kletzer, L & Constantine, J & McPherson, M & Schapiro, M-O, 1996. "The Impact of College Quality on Wages : Are There Differences Among Demographic Groups?," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-38, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    6. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1988. "Fairness and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 44-49, May.
    7. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1996. "Buying the Best: Cost Escalation in Elite Higher Education," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot96-1, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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