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Higher Education Policy, Enrollment, and Income Inequality

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  • Andreas Bergh
  • Günther Fink

Abstract

Objective. The objective of this article is to examine whether public expenditure on higher education has an effect on income inequality by increasing enrollment. Methods. Combining data from the World Bank Development Indicators with data from the World Income Inequality Database version 2, we study the relation between government education expenditure and enrollment rates, as well as the relation between government education expenditure and the change in income inequality during the 1980s and the 1990s. Results. We find that public expenditure on higher education has no positive effect on enrollment. Increased enrollment is mainly explained by higher GDP per capita. Using carefully selected Gini coefficients to ensure comparability over time, we do not find a robust relation between higher education expenditure and lower income inequality, contrary to some previous studies. Conclusions. Government expenditure on higher education has very limited effects on enrollment and inequality. This finding, however, does not imply that there are no social benefits from such subsidies. For example, in countries where high marginal tax rates decrease the economic returns to education, governments may wish to compensate for this through subsidies.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Bergh & Günther Fink, 2008. "Higher Education Policy, Enrollment, and Income Inequality," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(1), pages 217-235, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:socsci:v:89:y:2008:i:1:p:217-235
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00529.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sylwester, Kevin, 2002. "Can education expenditures reduce income inequality?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 43-52, February.
    2. Fredriksson, Peter, 1997. " Economic Incentives and the Demand for Higher Education," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(1), pages 129-142, March.
    3. George Psacharopoulos & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2004. "Returns to investment in education: a further update," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 111-134.
    4. Canton, Erik & de Jong, Frank, 2005. "The demand for higher education in The Netherlands, 1950-1999," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 651-663, December.
    5. Marin, Alan & Psacharopoulos, George, 1976. "Schooling and Income Distribution," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 58(3), pages 332-338, August.
    6. Costas Meghir & Mårten Palme, 2005. "Educational Reform, Ability, and Family Background," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 414-424, March.
    7. W. Lee Hansen & Burton A. Weisbrod, 1969. "The Distribution of Costs and Direct Benefits of Public Higher Education: The Case of California," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 4(2), pages 176-191.
    8. Cohn, Elchanan & Rhine, Sherrie L W & Santos, Maria C, 1989. "Institutions of Higher Education as Multi-product Firms: Economies of Scale and Scope," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(2), pages 284-290, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Bergh & Irina Mirkina & Therese Nilsson, 2020. "Can social spending cushion the inequality effect of globalization?," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(1), pages 104-142, March.
    2. Bergh, Andreas & Nilsson, Therese, 2010. "Do liberalization and globalization increase income inequality?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 488-505, December.
    3. Mario Holzner, 2010. "Inequality, Growth and Public Spending in Central, East and Southeast Europe," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 87, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    4. Katarina Keller & Panu Poutvaara & Andreas Wagener, 2010. "Does a Military Draft Discourage Enrollment in Higher Education?," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 66(2), pages 97-120, June.
    5. Annika C. Froehlich, 2016. "Does the curricular structure affect doctoral enrolment?," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 86(9), pages 1067-1089, December.
    6. Adnan Efendic & Naida Trkic-Izmirlija, 2013. "Effects of the global economic crisis and public spending on income distribution in Bosnia and Herzegovina," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 108, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    7. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242, June.
    8. Hălăngescu, Constantin I., 2011. "Provocări și tendințe ale învățămantului superior în contextul globalizării (literature review)
      [Higher education’s challenges and trends in the context of globalization(literature review)]
      ," MPRA Paper 33269, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Horácio C. Faustino & Carim Vali, 2011. "The Effects of Globalisation on OECD Income Inequality: A static and dynamic analysis," Working Papers Department of Economics 2011/12, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    10. Bilal Barakat & Robin Shields, 2019. "Just Another Level? Comparing Quantitative Patterns of Global Expansion of School and Higher Education Attainment," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(3), pages 917-934, June.

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