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The Economic Impact of Colleges and Universities

  • John J. Siegfried

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University and AEA)

  • Allen R. Sanderson

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Chicago)

  • Peter McHenry

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Yale University)

This essay describes methodological approaches and pitfalls common to studies of the economic impact of colleges and universities. Such studies often claim local benefits that imply annualized rates of return on local investment exceeding 100 percent. We address problems in these studies pertaining to the specification of the counterfactual, the definition of the local area, the identification of "new" expenditures, the tendency to double count economic impacts, the role of local taxes, and the omission of local spillover benefits from enhanced human capital created by higher education, and offer several suggestions for improvement. If these economic impact studies were conducted at the level of accuracy most institutions require of faculty research, their claims of local economic benefits would not be so preposterous, and, as a result, trust in and respect for higher education officials would be enhanced.

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File URL: http://www.accessecon.com/pubs/VUECON/vu06-w12.pdf
File Function: First version, 2006
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Paper provided by Vanderbilt University Department of Economics in its series Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers with number 0612.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0612
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/econ/wparchive/index.html

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  1. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  2. Lange, Fabian & Topel, Robert, 2006. "The Social Value of Education and Human Capital," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  3. Glaeser, E.L. & Scheinkman, J.A., 1993. "Economic Growth in a Cross-Section of Cities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1645, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 155-189, March.
  5. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Estimating the Social Return to Higher Education: Evidence From Longitudinal and Repeated Cross-Sectional Data," NBER Working Papers 9108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bound, John & Groen, Jeffrey & Kezdi, G.Gabor & Turner, Sarah, 2004. "Trade in university training: cross-state variation in the production and stock of college-educated labor," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 143-173.
  7. Melanie Blackwell & Steven Cobb & David Weinberg, 2002. "The Economic Impact of Educational Institutions: Issues and Methodology," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 16(1), pages 88-95, February.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Angrist, 1999. "How Large are the Social Returns to Education? Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws," Working papers 99-30, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Getz, Malcom & Huang, Yuh-ching, 1978. "Consumer Revealed Preference for Environmental Goods," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(3), pages 449-58, August.
  10. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
  11. James E. Rauch, 1991. "Productivity Gains From Geographic Concentration of human Capital: Evidence From the Cities," NBER Working Papers 3905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Groen, J.A.Jeffrey A., 2004. "The effect of college location on migration of college-educated labor," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 125-142.
  13. Milligan, Kevin & Moretti, Enrico & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2004. "Does education improve citizenship? Evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1667-1695, August.
  14. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
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