Endowment for the Amenities

January 29, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston

When we did the college tours with my son, I was always impressed by the luxury of the facilities – the athletic center (certainly not the “gym”) that rivals the most expensive private clubs, the theaters, the dorm suites, the quality, quantity, and variety of food in the dining halls (not the “cafeteria”).  “When I went to college . . . .”  I didn’t say that, but it’s what I was thinking.

It’s a matter of demand and supply.  As the title of a recent NBER paper puts it:
College as Country Club: Do Colleges Cater to 
Students’ Preferences for Consumption?

The paper is by Brian Jacob, Brian McCall, and Kevin M. Stange, at Michigan.  Did they really need to phrase it as a question?  Here’s part of the abstract.
This paper investigates whether demand-side market pressure explains colleges’ decisions to provide consumption amenities to their students. , , , We find that most students do appear to value college consumption amenities, including spending on student activities, sports, and dormitories. While this taste for amenities is broad-based, the taste for academic quality is confined to high-achieving students. 
Ah yes, the “taste” for academic quality. Or as Perelman said, De gustibus ain’t what dey used to be.

The paper, gated, is here.

HT: Matthew E. Kahn at The Reality Based Community


maxliving said...

I'm pretty sure you did use those exact words.

Jay Livingston said...

OK, maybe so. I trust your memory more than mine. But I thought them a lot more often than I spoke them.