Bryan Caplan  

Return to Dorms Bleg

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Does anyone claim that living on-campus increases the return to education?  Nothing turned up on a quick look at Google Scholar.


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COMMENTS (13 to date)
August writes:

I would think this would remain uninvestigated as research because almost everyone who would do such research has already learned that dorm life sucks, especially if you want to do something like study.

Quinn writes:

I can see how it would. I lived both on and off campus at USF, on campus was easier, I could walk quickly to and from class, and all in all I was more absorbed in studies. Off campus was still walkable, but a bit more of a barrier, and bigger parties.

Granted if the overall return is indeed higher, the cost is as well for living on campus. Worse rooms, more expensive, less privacy.

OneEyedMan writes:

I wonder if you could exploit distance of the parental home to commuter school location where the student is in attendance to instrument for the role of commute time in GPA.

Floccina writes:

Another blow to Cowen's law that says there is a literature on everything?

Squints writes:

This doesn't speak directly to your query and the sample size of one offers zero degrees of freedom, but:

One strong reason I didn't even bother applying to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth was precisely that it was only one hundred yards from my old fraternity from my undergraduate days. So for that observation the value of the binary variable would have been, um, not one.

Score one for self-knowledge, though.

Econymous writes:

This seems like such low-hanging research fruit. Randomization is already done for you by universities with dorms that have capacity issues and use lottery systems to decide who gets in. It'd be surprising if nobody made use of this fact.

Seth Green writes:

Bryan: There is a thriving peer effects literature that compares the effects of different types of roommate relationships on a variety of outcomes, but very little to my knowledge that compares people who live on campus to those who don't. A well identified study on the effects on racial attitudes of interracial roommate pairings: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/peer-effects-diversity-and-college-roommates and here's one on socializing and GPA http://www.uh.edu/~adkugler/Sacerdote.pdf - but I think you're right that there's nothing comparing returns (income? happiness?) to people who lived on campus to those who didn't.

But I'm not sure how you would obviate concerns about underlying dissimilarities between the two groups -- commuters are likely much poorer, on average. Perhaps an RD design of people at either side of a scholarship that covered dorms?

Obviously, the dormitory-construction lobby is suppressing the results!

Ben writes:

Lots of colleges claim that it does, right? Lots of schools require that freshman live on campus, for example, so that they can better integrate into "campus life"? Might be interesting to ask those colleges for evidence that that actually leads to better educational outcomes. :->

Kevin writes:

Would you want to consider if staying on campus increases the return on net? Room & board at universities is very expensive, significantly moreso than, say, living at home. I have often heard that on-campus dorms are significantly more expensive than an equivalent (or nicer/larger) apartment within walking distance of campus.

I'm sure at George Mason (given its commuter-heavy enrollment) many students stay at home, pay $0 rent and cheap board.

I imagine that a proper determination of whether staying on campus increases the return to education is if the additional money spent is recouped over your career.

Will Ambrosini writes:

Scott Carrell does a bunch of education production function papers and he has access to random assignment data from the military schools. Might be something there.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Even if the return you are seeking includes the utility of AWESOME PARTIES, I found that the most AWESOME PARTIES happened at fraternity houses, not in dorms.

Fred Anderson writes:

I wonder if on or off campus is the correct split.

I recall from long ago that there is evidence that the social ties formed in college may be more important than the knowledge gained -- at least if we're looking at career advancement.

So I would expect the most advantaged group to be those who lived off campus in an active fraternity or sorority. Then lived on campus in a dorm. Then lived off campus in an apartment building with lots of other students. Then probably lived at home (with whatever support that gives for one's social life). Then finally, at the rear, the off campus social isolates.

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