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Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes

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  • Eric P. Bettinger

    (Stanford University and NBER)

  • Bridget Terry Long

    (Harvard Graduate School of Education and NBER)

Abstract

Higher education has increasingly relied on part-time, adjunct instructors. Critics argue that adjuncts reduce educational quality because they often have less education than full-time professors. On the other hand, by specializing in teaching or being concurrently employed, adjuncts could enhance learning experiences. This paper quantifies how adjuncts affect subsequent student interest and course performance relative to full-time faculty using an instrumental variable strategy that exploits variation in the composition of a department's faculty over time. The results suggest that adjuncts often have a small, positive effect on enrollment patterns, especially in fields related to particular occupations. © 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 598-613, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:3:p:598-613
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    Cited by:

    1. Marta De Philippis, 2015. "Multitask Agents and Incentives: The Case of Teaching and Research for University Professors," CEP Discussion Papers dp1386, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Lapid, Patrick Andrew, 2018. "Fall Forward or Spring Back? Evaluating Student Outcomes of a Fall-Semester Transition Program at a Public Flagship University," SocArXiv 8vwhd, Center for Open Science.
    3. Jan Feld & Nicolás Salamanca & Ulf Zölitz, 2018. "Are professors worth it? The value-added and costs of tutorial instructors," ECON - Working Papers 293, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    4. Daniel C. Hickman & Andrew G. Meyer, 2017. "Does Athletic Success Influence Persistence At Higher Education Institutions? New Evidence Using Panel Data," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 658-676, October.
    5. Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2013. "Contract Teachers: Experimental Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 19440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Feld, Jan & Salamanca, Nicolás & Zölitz, Ulf, 2019. "Students are almost as effective as professors in university teaching," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    7. Pieter De Vlieger & Brian Jacob & Kevin Stange, 2018. "Measuring Instructor Effectiveness in Higher Education," NBER Chapters, in: Productivity in Higher Education, pages 209-258, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Cheslock, John J. & Callie, Trina M., 2015. "Changing salary structure and faculty composition within business schools: Differences across sectors and state funding levels," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 42-54.
    9. Fricke, Hans & Grogger, Jeffrey & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2018. "Exposure to academic fields and college major choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 199-213.
    10. Tian, Zhilei & Wei, Yi & Li, Fang, 2019. "Who are better teachers? The effects of tenure-track and part-time faculty on student achievement," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 140-151.
    11. Long, Bridget Terry & Taylor, Eric S., 2016. "When inputs are outputs: The case of graduate student instructorsAuthor-Name: Bettinger, Eric P," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 63-76.
    12. Michela Braga & Marco Paccagnella & Michele Pellizzari, 2016. "The Impact of College Teaching on Students’ Academic and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(3), pages 781-822.
    13. Constantin ANGHELACHE & Emilia GOGU & Madalina-Gabriela ANGHEL, 2017. "The Analysis Of The Offer Of University Education System," Romanian Statistical Review Supplement, Romanian Statistical Review, vol. 65(4), pages 168-197, April.
    14. Fricke, Hans & Grogger, Jeff & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2015. "Does Exposure to Economics Bring New Majors to the Field? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 9003, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. David N. Figlio & Morton O. Schapiro & Kevin B. Soter, 2015. "Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 715-724, October.
    16. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 2012. "American Higher Education in Transition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 193-216, Winter.
    17. Wayne A Grove x & Stephen Wu, 2011. "Factors Influencing Student Performance in Economics: Class and Instructor Characteristics," Chapters, in: Gail M. Hoyt & KimMarie McGoldrick (ed.), International Handbook on Teaching and Learning Economics, chapter 33, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Braga, Michela & Paccagnella, Marco & Pellizzari, Michele, 2014. "The academic and labor market returns of university professors," CEPR Discussion Papers 10283, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    19. Gershenson, Seth & Hart, Cassandra M. D. & Lindsay, Constance A. & Papageorge, Nicholas W., 2017. "The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers," IZA Discussion Papers 10630, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    20. Cassandra M.D. Hart & Elizabeth Friedmann & Michael Hill, 2018. "Online Course-taking and Student Outcomes in California Community Colleges," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 13(1), pages 42-71, Winter.
    21. Dills, Angela K. & Hernández-Julián, Rey, 2008. "Course scheduling and academic performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 646-654, December.
    22. Liang Zhang & Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Xiangmin Liu, 2015. "Changing Faculty Employment at Four-Year Colleges and Universities in the United States," NBER Working Papers 21827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Sam Allgood & William B. Walstad & John J. Siegfried, 2015. "Research on Teaching Economics to Undergraduates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 285-325, June.
    24. Artés, Joaquín & Pedraja-Chaparro, Francisco & Salinas-JiméneZ, Mª del Mar, 2017. "Research performance and teaching quality in the Spanish higher education system: Evidence from a medium-sized university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 19-29.
    25. G. Thomas Sav, 2017. "Are American Universities Mismanaged?: Tenure vs Non-Tenure Faculty Employment Decisions," Information Management and Business Review, AMH International, vol. 8(6), pages 19-31.

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