Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education

The mission of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at PennGSE is to promote the rigorous and responsible development and application of cost-effectiveness and benefit-cost methods. The Center builds on work that began in the 1970's and has pursued methodological improvements and new methods of analysis including a software platform, CostOut, for estimating costs using the ingredients method. Application topic areas include high school graduation, early child development, integrated school services, social and emotional learning, college completion, and many others. CBCSE also sponsors training programs in economic evaluation of education for researchers and decision-makers.


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Now showing 1 - 10 of 79
  • Publication
    Providing Comprehensive Educational Opportunity to Low-Income Students: What are the Social and Economic Returns?
    (2011-01-01) Belfield, Clive R; Hollands, Fiona M; Levin, Henry M
    This report estimates the economic costs and benefits attributable to a single cohort of 37,000 12th grade students in New York City public schools who come from families with incomes below 185% FPL. It calculates the net fiscal contributions by education level per individual. These contributions are tax revenues, minus government expenditures on healthcare, the criminal justice system, welfare programs, and school/college. The report also calculates the social impact of different educational attainment levels including the benefits of income gains, economic spillovers, reductions in crime, and improvements in health as education level increases.
  • Publication
    The Economic Value of National Service
    (2013-09-01) Belfield, Clive R.
    In this report we calculate social and taxpayer benefits of national service using current data and including a wider array of gains across a range of different programs. We use national datasets and existing studies of the association between service, education, and long-term impacts to calculate the economic value of national service programs.
  • Publication
    The Return on Investment for Improving California's High School Graduation Rate
    (2007-01-01) Belfield, Clive R; Levin, Henry M
    For each of several educational interventions that aim to increase the high school graduation rate in California, we calculate the costs to the taxpayer of each additional graduate and compare those costs to the economic benefits of an additional graduate. Under most scenarios, the benefits greatly exceed the costs, but the conclusion is sensitive to the source of funding, as the federal government gains significantly more than state and local governments, even though the latter are primarily responsible for funding the interventions.
  • Publication
    A Benefit-Cost Analysis of Nutritional Programs for Anemia Reduction
    (1986) Levin, Henry M
    This paper summarizes the types of benefits and costs associated with reducing anemia, discusses methods of calculating benefits, and provides a cost-benefit analysis of anemia reduction in Indonesia, Mexico, and Kenya
  • Publication
    Guiding the Development and Use of Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in Education
    (2014-10-01) Levin, Henry M; Belfield, Clive R
    Cost-effectiveness analysis is rarely used in education. When it is used, it often fails to meet methodological standards, especially with regard to cost measurement. Although there are occasional criticisms of these failings, we believe that it is useful to provide a listing of the more common concerns and how they might be addressed. Based upon both previous projects on the subject and a recent project that attempted to construct cost-effectiveness comparisons from the What Works Clearinghouse of the Institute of Educational Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, we have identified a set of recommendations for practice that should have high priority if we are to construct valid cost-effectiveness comparisons for policy uses when choosing among alternative educational interventions.
  • Publication
    Evaluating Regulatory Impact Assessments in Education Policy
    (2018-01-01) Belfield, Clive R; Bowden, A Brooks; Rodriguez, Viviana
    Benefit–cost analysis is an important part of regulatory decision-making, yet there are questions as to how often and how well it is performed. Here we examine 28 Regulatory Impact Assessments performed by the federal government on education regulations since 2006. We find many Regulatory Impact Assessments estimated costs, albeit using informal methods, but most failed to adequately report benefits. Also, most studies did not estimate net present value or clearly report methodological assumptions. In reviewing the relatively high quality studies we identified a number of discrepancies from best practice. Most importantly, few Regulatory Impact Assessments attempted a social benefit–cost analysis: Most examined “administrative burdens” from compliance with legislation. This alternative focus on administrative burdens has significant implications for economic evaluation in practice.
  • Publication
    Cost-effectiveness Analysis of Interventions that Improve High School Completion
    (2012-10-01) Levin, Henry M; Belfield, Clive R.; Hollands, Fiona; Bowden, Brooks; Cheng, Henan; Shand, Robert; Pan, Yilin; Hanisch-Cerda, Barbara
    This report demonstrates the methods of cost-effectiveness analysis as applied to several educational programs that have been shown to improve the rate of high school completion.
  • Publication
    Updating the Economic Impacts of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program
    (2005-01-01) Nores, Milagros; Barnett, Steve; Schweinhart, Lawrence; Belfield, Clive R
    This paper derives an updated cost-benefit ratio for the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program, an intensive preschool intervention delivered during the 1960s to at-risk children in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Because children were randomly assigned to the program or a control group, differences in outcomes are probably attributable to program status. Data on outcome differences is now available on participants as they reached the age of 40; outcomes include educational attainment, earnings, criminal activity, and welfare receipt. These outcomes are rendered in money terms and compared to the costs of delivering the program to calculate the net present value of the program both for participants and for society. The data shows strong advantages for the treatment group in terms of higher lifetime earnings and lower criminal activity. For the general public, gains in tax revenues, lower expenditures on criminal justice, lower victim costs, and lower welfare payments easily outweigh program costs. At a 3% discount rate the program repays $12.90 for every $1 invested from the perspective of the general public; with a 7% discount rate, the repayment per dollar is $5.67. Returns are even higher if the total benefits – both public and private – are counted. However, there are strong differences by gender: a large proportion of the gains from the program come from lower criminal activity rates by the treatment group, almost all of which is undertaken by the males in the sample. The implications of these findings for public policy on early childhood education are considered.
  • Publication
    Using Resource and Cost Considerations to Support Educational Evaluation: Six Domains
    (2019-01-01) Belfield, Clive R; Bowden, A Brooks
    Cost, cost-effectiveness, and benefit-cost analysis are methods used by economists to evaluate public policies. Essentially, these methods rely on impact evaluations, that is, research studies of efficacy and effectiveness. However, in most research in education, these cost and impact evaluations are performed separately. This separation creates methodological deficiencies and undermines the contribution of educational research to decision making. In this article, we identify key domains of educational research evaluations that, we believe, would be enhanced if resource and cost analyses were integrated more directly. These domains relate to outcome specification, treatment contrast, implementation fidelity, the role of mediators, power of the test, and meta-analysis. For each domain, we provide a case study example of how these cost analyses can complement and augment current research practices in educational evaluation. More interaction between economists and education researchers would be beneficial for both groups.
  • Publication
    How to Conduct Cost and Value Analyses in Health Professions Education: AMEE Guide No. 139
    (2020-01-01) Foo, Jonathon; Cook, David A; Tolsgaard, Martin; Rivers, George; Cleland, Jennifer; Walsh, Kieran; Abdalla, Mohamed Elhassan; You, You; Ilic, Dragan; Golub, Robert; Levin, Henry; Maloney, Stephen
    Growing demand for accountability, transparency, and efficiency in health professions education is expected to drive increased demand for, and use of, cost and value analyses. In this AMEE Guide, we introduce key concepts, methods, and literature that will enable novices in economics to conduct simple cost and value analyses, hold informed discussions with economic specialists, and undertake further learning on more advanced economic topics. The practical structure for conducting analyses provided in this guide will enable researchers to produce robust results that are meaningful and useful for improving educational practice. Key steps include defining the economic research question, identifying an appropriate economic study design, carefully identifying cost ingredients, quantifying, and pricing the ingredients consumed, and conducting sensitivity analyses to explore uncertainties in the results.