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Research returns redux: a meta-analysis of the returns to agricultural R&D

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  • Alston, Julian M.
  • Marra, Michele C.
  • Pardey, Philip G.
  • Wyatt, T. J.

Abstract

A total of 294 studies of returns to agricultural R&D (including extension) were compiled and these studies provide 1,858 separate estimates of rates of return. This includes some extreme values, which are implausible. When the highest and lowest 2.5 percent of the rates of return were set aside, the estimated annual rates of return averaged 73 percent overall–88 percent for research only, 45 percent for research and extension, and 79 percent for extension only. But these averages reveal little meaningful information from a large and diverse body of literature, which provides rate-of-return estimates that are often not directly comparable. The purpose of this study was to go behind the averages, and try to account for the sources of differences, in a meta-analysis of the studies of returns to agricultural R&D. The results conform with the theory and prior beliefs in many ways. Several features of the methods used by research evaluators matter, in particular assumptions about lag lengths and the nature of the research-induced supply shift.

Suggested Citation

  • Alston, Julian M. & Marra, Michele C. & Pardey, Philip G. & Wyatt, T. J., 1998. "Research returns redux: a meta-analysis of the returns to agricultural R&D," EPTD discussion papers 38, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:eptddp:38
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    1. P. G. Lakshminarayan & P W. Gassman & A. Bouzaher & R. C. Izaurralde, 1996. "A Metamodeling Approach to Evaluate Agricultural Policy Impact on Soil Degradation in Western Canada," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 44(3), pages 277-294, November.
    2. Kevin J. Boyle & Gregory L. Poe & John C. Bergstrom, 1994. "What Do We Know About Groundwater Values? Preliminary Implications from a Meta Analysis of Contingent-Valuation Studies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1055-1061.
    3. Julian M. Alston & Philip G. Pardey & Jennifer S. James & Matthew A. Anderson, 2009. "The Economics of Agricultural R&D," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 537-566, September.
    4. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
    5. Smith, V. Kerry & Osborne, Laura L., 1996. "Do Contingent Valuation Estimates Pass a "Scope" Test? A Meta-analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 287-301, November.
    6. Alston, Julian M. & Craig, Barbara J. & Pardey, Philip G., 1998. "Dynamics in the creation and depreciation of knowledge, and the returns to research:," EPTD discussion papers 35, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Fullerton, Don, 1991. "Reconciling Recent Estimates of the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 302-308, March.
    8. E. Pasour & Marc Johnson, 1982. "Bureaucratic productivity: The case of agricultural research revisited," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 301-317, January.
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    Keywords

    Rate of return.; Agricultural research.;

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