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Higher education subsidies and heterogeneity: a dynamic analysis

  • Caucutt, Elizabeth M.
  • Kumar, Krishna B.

In this paper, we develop a simple dynamic general equilibrium framework that can be used to study issues in higher education policy. The model features heterogeneity in income of parents and academic ability of students. Liquidity constraints create persistence in educational attainment even when ability is independently distributed. A unique steady state with a positive fraction of college educated workers, or one with a development trap, or multiple steady states which feature both of these, can result in equilibrium. We add a government that is equipped with a simple tax scheme and calibrate the model to the US economy to get a benchmark for our policy analysis. The government can design a tax and subsidy scheme that guarantees equality of opportunity, but only at the expense of a decrease in the efficiency of utilization of education resources; the welfare gain is minimal. A policy that aims to maximize the fraction of college-educated labor, by sending as many children as possible to college, results in a big drop in the above-mentioned efficiency with little or no welfare gain. If the government has the political will to use any available signal on ability and provide merit-based aid, it can increase this efficiency with little decrease in welfare. Education subsidies may be a potent tool for countries that are caught in a development trap; a sufficient level of subsidy can cause the economy to emerge from the trap.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control.

Volume (Year): 27 (2003)
Issue (Month): 8 (June)
Pages: 1459-1502

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Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:27:y:2003:i:8:p:1459-1502
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  1. Elizabeth M. Caucutt & Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Krishna B. Kumar, 2000. "Does the progressivity of taxes matter for economic growth?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 138, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Galor, O. & Tsiddon, D., 1996. "Technological Progress, Mobility and Economic Growth," Papers 13-96, Tel Aviv.
  3. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 1994. "On the political economy of education subsidies," Staff Report 185, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts," NBER Working Papers 6385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith & Jr., 1998. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 867-896, October.
  6. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-67, June.
  7. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 2001. "The Effect of Parental Transfers and Borrowing Constraints on Educational Attainment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1051-1103, November.
  8. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong Wha, 1996. "International Measures of Schooling Years and Schooling Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 218-23, May.
  9. S. Rao Aiyagari & Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri, 2001. "Efficient Investment in Children," RCER Working Papers 481, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  10. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  11. Stokey, Nancy L, 1996. " Free Trade, Factor Returns, and Factor Accumulation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(4), pages 421-47, December.
  12. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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