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Explorations into the Production of State Government Services: Education, Welfare and Hospitals

Author

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  • Richard W. Tresch

    (Boston College)

  • Andrei Zlate

    () (Boston College)

Abstract

This paper explores the production characteristics of three important U.S. state government services--public higher education, public welfare, and state psychiatric hospitals—during the last half of the twentieth century. We estimate translog cost functions for the three services and find that their production attributes are similar in a number of respects. First, production exhibits substantial economies of scale; unexploited scale economies are so severe that the average state operates on the negative portion of its marginal cost curve. Second, the analysis of technical change indicates that public education, welfare, and hospitals are affected by severe technical regression in all states, in both the long run and short run. Third, production of all three services is overcapitalized in most states; the provision of these services is not long-run efficient. Finally, we show that the Baumol-Oates cost disease of lagging productivity growth is rampant in all three services; only the short-run productivity growth in education matches the performance of the private sector, as technical regression is more than offset by the productivity-enhancing scale effect of increased enrollments.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard W. Tresch & Andrei Zlate, 2007. "Explorations into the Production of State Government Services: Education, Welfare and Hospitals," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 679, Boston College Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:679
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    Cited by:

    1. Michela Redoano, 2010. "Does Centralization Affect the Number and Size of Lobbies?," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 12(3), pages 407-435, June.
    2. Linz, Teresa & Tsegai, Daniel W., 2009. "Industrial Water Demand analysis in the Middle Olifants sub-basin of South Africa: The case of Mining," Discussion Papers 49927, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public services; translog cost function; scale economies; technical regression; long-run cost efficiency; technology growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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