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The Shaping of Higher Education: The Formative Years in the United States, 1890 to 1940

  • Claudia Goldin
  • Lawrence F. Katz

The American university was shaped in a formative period from 1890 to 1940 long before the rise of federal funding, the G.I. Bill, and mass higher education. Both the scale and scope of institutions of higher education were greatly increased, the research university blossomed, states vastly increased their funding of higher education, and the public sector greatly expanded relative to the private sector. Independent professional institutions declined, as did theological institutes and denominational colleges in general. Increases in the scale and scope of institutions of higher education were generated by exogenous changes in the that affected the professions generally and that of the clergy in particular. The increase in the share of students in the public sector may also have been prompted by these exogenous changes for they gave advantages to institutions, such as those in the public sector, that had research facilities, reputation, and a long purse. The high school movement, which swept parts of the country from 1910 to 1940, brought students from less privileged backgrounds to college and thus also buoyed enrollments in the public sector. States differed widely in their funding of higher education per capita and we find that greater generosity in 1929 was positively associated with later statehood, lower private college enrollments in 1900, greater shares of employment in mining and manufacturing, higher income, and a proxy for greater and more equally distributed wealth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6537.

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Date of creation: Apr 1998
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Publication status: published as (Shortened version) Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 13, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 37-62
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6537
Note: LS PE
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  1. Caroline M. Hoxby, 1997. "How the Changing Market Structure of U.S. Higher Education Explains College Tuition," NBER Working Papers 6323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
  3. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Shaping of Higher Education: The Formative Years in the United States, 1890 to 1940," NBER Working Papers 6537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1996. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1778, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Demographic Structure and the Political Economy of Public Education," NBER Working Papers 5677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hoxby, Caroline M, 1998. "How Much Does School Spending Depend on Family Income? The Historical Origins of the Current School Finance Dilemma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 309-14, May.
  7. John M. Quigley & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1993. "Public Choices in Public Higher Education," NBER Chapters, in: Studies of Supply and Demand in Higher Education, pages 243-284 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jaffe, Adam B, 1989. "Real Effects of Academic Research," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 957-70, December.
  9. Charles T. Clotfelter & Michael Rothschild, 1993. "Studies of Supply and Demand in Higher Education," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot93-1, September.
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