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.


Search results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 79
  • 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
    A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Long-Term Intervention on Social and Emotional Learning in Compulsory School
    (2017-04-01) Klapp, Alli; Belfield, Clive R.; Bowden, Brooks; Levin, Henry M.; Shand, Robert; Zander, Sabine
    There is growing evidence that social and emotional skills can be taught to students in school and teaching these skills can have a positive effect on later outcomes, such as better mental health and less drug use. This paper presents a benefit-cost analysis of a longitudinal social and emotional learning intervention in Sweden, using data for 663 students participating in the evaluation. Intervention costs are compared against treatment impact on self-reported drug use. Pre-test and post-test data are available. Since follow-up data for the participants´ drug use as adults is not available, informed projections have been made. Net present monetary values are calculated for the general public and society. The results show that students in the treatment group report decreasing use of drugs over the five year long intervention, the value of which easily outweighs the intervention costs.
  • Publication
    Addressing Leandro: Supporting Student Learning by Mitigating Student Hunger
    (2019-01-01) Bowden, Brooks; Davis, Rebecca A.
    Many students face barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential in school and beyond. Although some of these barriers are outside the domain of education, solving hunger is one challenge that is both important for school performance and feasible as a policy option. This report reviews the economic importance of investing in strategies to reduce hunger among students, highlights innovative approaches available to schools and districts, and reviews state-level policies to mitigate this challenge for students in North Carolina.
  • Publication
    Improving Early Literacy: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Effective Reading Programs
    (2013-04-01) Hollands, Fiona; Pan, Yilin; Shand, Robert; Cheng, Henan; Levin, Henry M; Belfield, Clive R.; Kieffer, Michael; Bowden, Brooks; Hanisch-Cerda, Barbara
    This study is a cost-effectiveness analysis of seven early literacy programs that have all been previously identified as effective at improving reading outcomes for students in Grades K-3. We use the ingredients method to collect cost data for each program and compare the cost-effectiveness of programs serving students in the same grade level.
  • Publication
    Minnesota Reading Corps Pre-K Program Cost Analysis
    (2018-07-01) Bowden, Brooks; Escueta, Maya; Muroga, Atsuko; Rodriguez, Viviana; Levin, Henry M.
    The Minnesota Reading Corps (MRC) program is a statewide AmeriCorps early literacy initiative that aims to foster emergent literacy skills of children to ensure reading proficiency by the end of grade 3. MRC and its host organization, Reading & Math, Inc. (RMI), aim to address the resource gaps within under-resourced schools by bringing AmeriCorps members into Pre-K classrooms to provide literacy enrichment for the whole class and tutoring services for specific at-risk students. An impact evaluation of the program conducted in 2013-2014 by the University of Chicago-based research center, NORC, showed positive impacts on emergent literacy outcomes for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds (Markovitz et al., 2015). Building on the existing evidence on the program effectiveness, this study estimates the costs of providing the MRC Pre-K program that are associated with the impact measured by the 2013-2014 impact evaluation. Rigorous economic evaluations of educational interventions provide important information about the resources necessary to implement a program. Such evaluations bridge the gap between knowledge on program implementation and program impact by identifying the resources utilized to generate outcomes of interest. As such, cost analyses intend to inform policymakers facing decisions to replicate or scale up a program, or trade-offs related to limited resources. Our study used the ingredients method—an approach widely applied to examine costs of educational interventions—to estimate the MRC Pre-K program’s cost (Levin, McEwan, Belfield, Bowden & Shand, 2018). We conducted interviews, surveys, and classroom observations, as well as reviews of program documents, administrative records and past research in order to collect data on all resources utilized to derive program impact based on its theory of change. Wherever important data were missing, we used a Monte Carlo simulation strategy to explore site-level variation on resource use and costs. Overall, the costs of MRC were identified as $1.5 million per year to serve 1,261 students across twenty-five schools, or $1,210 per pupil on average. Costs were found to vary substantially by site, by ingredient category and by who bears the burden of the costs across the 25 sites evaluated. Our analyses of the distribution of who bears the costs suggest that the average cost per student per site borne by schools ranges from $680 to $210, or approximately 25% of the total costs per student. Comparable cost estimates are limited by a lack of similar Pre-K programs that have conducted both impact and cost analysis evaluations. Our study is one of the few rigorous cost analyses in Pre-K programs conducted alongside effectiveness research on a supplemental Pre-K literacy program to date. Nevertheless, these results suggest the Minnesota Reading Corps program leverages a substantial amount of resources into Pre-K classrooms in a way that feasibly distributes costs.
  • Publication
    Empirical Support for Establishing Common Assumptions in Cost Research in Education
    (2021-07-07) Shand, Robert; Bowden, Brooks
    The economic evaluation of educational policies and programs employing the ingredients method for cost, cost-effectiveness, or benefit-cost analysis is no exception to the critique that economic models require an untenable number of assumptions. Educational economists must make assumptions due to two sources of uncertainty: model uncertainty, as in the well-documented debate over the selection of the appropriate social discount rate to calculate present value and empirical uncertainty due to the infeasibility of gathering sufficiently detailed data on all resources. This paper highlights the frequency of empirical assumptions made in the education literature and proposes a set of harmonized assumptions to address empirical uncertainty that can be used to increase comparability of economic evaluation across programs and across studies. By building consensus on a set of reasonable, empirically derived assumptions that are selected so as to minimally distort the results of evaluations, differences in costs, cost effectiveness, and benefit-cost ratios can be more confidently ascribed to meaningful differences in resource use, program implementation, and program effectiveness, as opposed to differences in choices made by the analyst.
  • Publication
    Examining Systems of Student Support
    (2018-10-01) Bowden, Brooks; Muroga, Atsuko; Wang, Anyi; Shand, Robert; Levin, Henry M.
  • 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.