Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.
Princeton’s Alan B. Krueger had an interesting commentary on academic earmarks in last week’s New York Times. Krueger writes,
“Increasingly, universities are being financed like farmers and military contractors, with legislative earmarks. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, there were 1,964 earmarks to 716 academic institutions costing a total of $2 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, or just over 10 percent of the federal money spent on academic research. From 1996 to 2003, the amount spent on academic earmarks grew at an astounding rate of 31 percent a year, after adjusting for inflation. Earmarks contrast with the way the government finances most university projects, which is through open competitions for grants. In these competitions, agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health review grant applications, often consulting with outside experts, and base awards on the applications’ perceived merit. Earmarks are decided by a political process, without external peer review. As academic earmarks have grown, so have universities’ lobbying expenditures. Spending on lobbying jumped to $62 million in 2003 from $23 million in 1998, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.”
Krueger cites several studies of earmarking. One study looked at the period 1997-1999 and found, not surprisingly, that the presence of a member of congress on a House or Senate appropriations subcommittee is a critical variable in explaining earmarking awards. The study also found that lobbying efforts have a significant monetary return to universities, which explains the growth in university lobbying efforts. Krueger cites another interesting study,