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School cost functions: A meta-regression analysis


  • Colegrave, Andrew D.
  • Giles, Margaret J.


The education cost literature includes econometric studies attempting to determine economies of scale, or estimate an optimal school or district size. Not only do their results differ, but the studies use dissimilar data, techniques, and models. To derive value from these studies requires that the estimates be made comparable. One method to do this is meta-regression analysis (MRA) which was pioneered by Stanley and Jarrell [(1998). Gender wage discrimination bias? An MRA. Journal of Human Resources, 33, 947-973] as a result of similar frustrations with 'omnipresent biases' (p. 717). In this paper, the basic technique of MRA is described and then applied to 22 estimates of school costs, where an optimal school size (OSS) has or can be calculated. Results suggest an OSS of around 1543 students at the US secondary school level. Difficulties in interpreting the estimates are highlighted. The paper concludes with cautions in the use of MRA and opportunities for further research in this area.

Suggested Citation

  • Colegrave, Andrew D. & Giles, Margaret J., 2008. "School cost functions: A meta-regression analysis," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 688-696, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:27:y:2008:i:6:p:688-696

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Smet, Mike, 2001. "Determining the optimal size of study fields in Flemish secondary education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 443-457, October.
    8. Wales, Terence J, 1973. "The Effect of School and District Size on Education Costs in British Columbia," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 710-720, October.
    9. Gershberg, Alec Ian & Schuermann, Til, 2001. "The efficiency-equity trade-off of schooling outcomes: public education expenditures and welfare in Mexico," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 27-40, February.
    10. Jimenez, Emmanuel, 1986. "The structure of educational costs: Multiproduct cost functions for primary and secondary schools in latin America," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 25-39, February.
    11. T. D. Stanley, 2001. "Wheat from Chaff: Meta-analysis as Quantitative Literature Review," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 131-150, Summer.
    12. K. Chakraborty & B. Biswas & WC. Lewis, 2000. "Economies of scale in public education: an econometric analysis," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(2), pages 238-247, April.
    13. Espey, Molly & Thilmany, Dawn D., 2000. "Farm Labor Demand: A Meta-Regression Analysis Of Wage Elasticities," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 25(01), July.
    14. T.D. Stanley & Stephen B. Jarrell, 1998. "Gender Wage Discrimination Bias? A Meta-Regression Analysis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 947-973.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tirivayi, J.N. & Maasen van den Brink, H. & Groot, W.N.J., 2014. "Size and economies of scale in higher education and the implications for mergers," MERIT Working Papers 066, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    2. Mora Rodríguez, Jhon James & Muro, Juan, 2015. "On the size of sheepskin effects: A meta-analysis," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 9, pages 1-18.
    3. Rhys Andrews, 2013. "Local government size and efficiency in labor-intensive public services: evidence from local educational authorities in England," Chapters,in: The Challenge of Local Government Size, chapter 7, pages 171-188 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. repec:spr:reihed:v:59:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11162-017-9460-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Carlos Renato De Melo Castro & Geraldo Da Silva E Souza & Maria Eduarda Tannuri-Pianto, 2016. "Gastos Em Educação: Mais Recursos Sem Gestão?," Anais do XLIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 43rd Brazilian Economics Meeting] 072, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    6. Hédi Essid & Pierre Ouellette & Stéphane Vigeant, 2013. "Small is not that beautiful after all: measuring the scale efficiency of Tunisian high schools using a DEA-bootstrap method," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(9), pages 1109-1120, March.
    7. Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Iatarola, Patrice & Chellman, Colin C., 2009. "Mission matters: The cost of small high schools revisited," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 585-599, October.
    8. Rhys Andrews, 2012. "Local Government Size and Efficiency in Labour Intensive Public Services: Evidence from Local Educational Authorities in England," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1214, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    9. Liang-Cheng Zhang & Andrew C Worthington, 2016. "Explaining estimated economies of scale and scope in higher education: A meta-regression analysis," Discussion Papers in Economics economics:201604, Griffith University, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.
    10. Zuzana Iršová & Tomáš Havránek, 2010. "Measuring Bank Efficiency: A Meta-Regression Analysis," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2010(4), pages 307-328.


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