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The economic impact of colleges and universities

  • Siegfried, John J.
  • Sanderson, Allen R.
  • McHenry, Peter

This essay describes methodological approaches and pitfalls common to studies of the economic impact of colleges and universities. Such studies often claim local benefits that imply annualized rates of return on local investment exceeding 100 percent. We address problems in these studies pertaining to the specification of the counterfactual, the definition of the local area, the identification of "new" expenditures, the tendency to double count economic impacts, the role of local taxes, and the omission of local spillover benefits from enhanced human capital created by higher education, and offer several suggestions for improvement. If these economic impact studies were conducted at the level of accuracy most institutions require of faculty research, their claims of local economic benefits would not be so preposterous, and, as a result, trust in and respect for higher education officials would be enhanced.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

Volume (Year): 26 (2007)
Issue (Month): 5 (October)
Pages: 546-558

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:26:y:2007:i:5:p:546-558
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

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  1. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2001. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," NBER Working Papers 8605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Estimating the Social Return to Higher Education: Evidence From Longitudinal and Repeated Cross-Sectional Data," NBER Working Papers 9108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
  7. 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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  9. Melanie Blackwell & Steven Cobb & David Weinberg, 2002. "The Economic Impact of Educational Institutions: Issues and Methodology," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 16(1), pages 88-95, February.
  10. Bound, John & Groen, Jeffrey & Kezdi, G.Gabor & Turner, Sarah, 2004. "Trade in university training: cross-state variation in the production and stock of college-educated labor," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 143-173.
  11. James E. Rauch, 1991. "Productivity Gains From Geographic Concentration of human Capital: Evidence From the Cities," NBER Working Papers 3905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Getz, Malcom & Huang, Yuh-ching, 1978. "Consumer Revealed Preference for Environmental Goods," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(3), pages 449-58, August.
  13. Groen, J.A.Jeffrey A., 2004. "The effect of college location on migration of college-educated labor," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 125-142.
  14. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
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