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Capital-Market Failure, Adverse Selection, and Equity Financing of Higher Education

  • Bas Jacobs
  • Sweder J. G. van Wijnbergen

We apply theories of capital-market failure to analyze optimal financing of risky higher education. In the market solution, students can only finance theireducation through debt. There is underinvestment in human capital because some students with socially profitable investments in human capital will not invest in education, due to adverse-selection problems in debt markets and because insurance markets for human-capital-related risk are absent. Legal limitations on the use of human capital in financial contracts cause this underinvestment; without them, private markets would optimally finance these risky investments through equity rather than debt and supply income insurance. The government, however, can circumvent this problem and implement equity and insurance contracts through the tax system by using a graduate tax. This paper shows that public equity financing of education coupled to provision of some income insurance is the optimal way to finance education when private markets fail due to adverse selection. We show that education subsidies to restore market inefficiencies are suboptimal.

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Article provided by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen in its journal FinanzArchiv.

Volume (Year): 63 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 1-32

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Handle: RePEc:mhr:finarc:urn:sici:0015-2218(200703)63:1_1:cfasae_2.0.tx_2-9
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  1. Colm Harmon & Hessel Oosterbeek & Ian Walker, 2003. "The Returns to Education: Microeconomics," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 115-156, 04.
  2. Moretti, Enrico, 2004. "Estimating the social return to higher education: evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 175-212.
  3. Chapman, B., 1996. "Conceptual Issues and the Australian Experience with Income Contingent Charges for Higher Education," CEPR Discussion Papers 350, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1995. " A Theory of the Welfare State," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 495-526, December.
  5. Mikael Lindahl & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Education for Growth: Why and for Whom?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1101-1136, December.
  6. Edwin Leuven & Hessel Oosterbeek & Bas van der Klaauw, 2010. "The Effect of Financial Rewards on Students' Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1243-1265, December.
  7. Bas Jacobs, 2002. "An investigation of education finance reform; graduate taxes and income contingent loans in the Netherlands," CPB Discussion Paper 9, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  8. Stephen Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2000. "Borrowing Constraints and the Returns to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 7761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Karla Hoff & Andrew B. Lyon, 1994. "Non-Leaky Buckets: Optimal Redistributive Taxation and Agency Costs," NBER Working Papers 4652, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. de Meza, David & Webb, David C, 1987. "Too Much Investment: A Problem of Asymmetric Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(2), pages 281-92, May.
  11. de Meza, David & Webb, David, 1990. "Risk, Adverse Selection and Capital Market Failure," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(399), pages 206-14, March.
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