August 2020

The Multiplier Effect of Education Expenditure

Maarten De Ridder, Simona M. Hannon, Damjan Pfajfar

Abstract:

This paper examines the short-run effects of federal education expenditures on local income. We exploit city-level variation in exposure to national changes in the $30-billion Federal Pell Grant Program, which is the largest program to help low-income students attend college in the U.S., to calculate fiscal multipliers of education expenditures. An increase in Pell grants by 1 percent of a city's income raises local income by 2.4 percent over the next two years. This multiplier effect is larger than estimates for military spending (1.5 on average). Multipliers are higher when grants are awarded to students at non-profit colleges, as for-profit colleges absorb most of the grant increases with raises in tuition. Multipliers are also higher during recessions than in expansions: Pell grants can be an effective tool for countercyclical policy that adds to already established benefits, such as, increasing the affordability of college and fostering longrun economic growth.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.058

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: August 07, 2020