nep-sog New Economics Papers
on Sociology of Economics
Issue of 2010‒04‒11
one paper chosen by
Jonas Holmström
Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration

  1. Why I Lost My Secretary: The Effect of Endowment Shocks on University Operations By Jeffrey Brown; Stephen G. Dimmock; Jun-Koo Kang; Scott Weisbenner

  1. By: Jeffrey Brown; Stephen G. Dimmock; Jun-Koo Kang; Scott Weisbenner
    Abstract: Over the past two decades, endowments have become an increasingly important component of the typical university's resource base. We examine how U.S. doctoral institutions' endowment payout policies and spending decisions are affected by financial market shocks to endowments. While most endowments have formal payout policies intended to smooth payouts over time, we find that universities are more likely to deviate from these policies following negative (but not positive) shocks. These negative shocks have important economic effects on university activities. Specifically, we find that universities with larger negative endowment shocks are relatively more likely to: (1) reduce support staff (e.g., secretaries) and maintenance, but not administrators; (2) among less selective institutions, reduce expenditures on tenure-system faculty while increasing the average salary of adjuncts/lecturers; (3) make larger cuts to tenure-system faculty and secretarial support when their endowment portfolio is less liquid (i.e. higher allocations to alternative assets such as hedge funds); and (4) among more selective universities, reduce financial aid for students the following Fall and enroll fewer freshmen. We also find that universities increase hiring when there are negative endowment shocks to their peers. Thus, financial shocks have real effects on university operations, but with cross-sectional variation in how universities respond.
    JEL: G11 I22 L3
    Date: 2010–04

This nep-sog issue is ©2010 by Jonas Holmström. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.