Skip to main content

Productivity in Higher Education

How do the benefits of higher education compare with its costs, and how does this comparison vary across individuals and institutions? These questions are fundamental to quantifying the productivity of the education sector. The studies in Productivity in Higher Education use rich and novel administrative data, modern econometric methods, and careful institutional analysis to explore productivity issues. The authors examine the returns to undergraduate education, differences in costs by major, the productivity of for-profit schools, the productivity of various types of faculty and of outcomes, the effects of online education on the higher education market, and the ways in which the productivity of different institutions responds to market forces. The analyses recognize five key challenges to assessing productivity in higher education: the potential for multiple student outcomes in terms of skills, earnings, invention, and employment; the fact that colleges and universities are “multiproduct” firms that conduct varied activities across many domains; the fact that students select which school to attend based in part on their aptitude; the difficulty of attributing outcomes to individual institutions when students attend more than one; and the possibility that some of the benefits of higher education may arise from the system as a whole rather than from a single institution. The findings and the approaches illustrated can facilitate decision-making processes in higher education.


"The premise underlying this collection is that those charged with program development in colleges and universities too often focus on cost when planning, rather than on the ratio of benefits to cost (i.e., productivity). Editors Hoxby (Stanford Univ.) and Stange (Univ. of Michigan) consider this a significant failing given the increasingly intense calls for institutional accountability and the availability of data on educational outcomes. They challenge economists associated with the National Bureau of Economic Research to apply statistically based economic research methods to productivity in more- and less-selective four-year institutions, community colleges, and for-profit and not-for-profit online programs. Individual studies included here focus on short- and long-term gains in income, allocation of resources among majors, and productivity in terms of learning outcomes, individual growth, and micro and macro benefits to society. These practical studies can be replicated elsewhere and provide models for further studies using similar methodologies. This is an important book for those engaged in institutional research and for graduate students and faculty in the field of education. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty."


Table of Contents


Caroline M. Hoxby and Kevin Stange

1.         What Health Care Teaches Us about Measuring Productivity in Higher Education
Douglas Staiger

2.         The Productivity of US Postsecondary Institutions
Caroline M. Hoxby

3.         Labor Market Outcomes and Postsecondary Accountability: Are Imperfect Metrics Better Than None?
Veronica Minaya and Judith Scott-Clayton

4.         Learning and Earning: An Approximation to College Value Added in Two Dimensions
Evan Riehl, Juan E. Saavedra, and Miguel Urquiola

5.         The Costs of and Net Returns to College Major
Joseph G. Altonji and Seth D. Zimmerman

6.         Faculty Deployment in Research Universities
Paul N. Courant and Sarah Turner

7.         Measuring Instructor Effectiveness in Higher Education
Pieter De Vlieger, Brian Jacob, and Kevin Stange

8.         The Competitive Effects of Online Education
David J. Deming, Michael Lovenheim, and Richard Patterson

9.         Estimating the Productivity of Community Colleges in Paving the Road to Four-Year College Success
Scott E. Carrell and Michal Kurlaender

Author Index
Subject Index

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press