NBER Working Papers and Publications
|November 2018||Why is Math Cheaper than English? Understanding Cost Differences in Higher Education|
with Steven W. Hemelt, Kevin M. Stange, Andrew Simon, John E. Sawyer: w25314
The private return to postsecondary investment varies widely by field, but the resources required by different fields are not well known. This paper establishes five new facts about college costs using novel department-level data. First, costs vary widely across field, ranging from electrical engineering (109 percent higher costs than English) to math (22 percent lower). Costs are generally higher in fields where graduates earn more and in pre-professional programs. Second, this pattern is explained statistically by differences in class size and faculty pay, though differences in production technology enable some fields to offset higher salaries with larger classes. Third, some STEM fields experienced steep declines in expenditures over the past fifteen years while others saw increases. Fo...