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From the school yard to the scrap yard: An analysis of production function models on public issues

Jeffrey Scott Granberg-Rademacker, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The general topic of this dissertation is an examination of the preeminence of production function models (PFMs) in the field of public policy and the problem of conceptualizing the actual goals and outputs of public agencies under the PFM framework. PFMs are a creation of economic theory and have been a useful tool for economists for assessing the optimal input-output conditions for a firm under a market framework. Because of the intuitive, input-output nature of the model, as well as innovations in statistical methodology, PFMs have been imported into public policy and political science. Unfortunately, this transplant does not come without some cost. While the input-output framework of the PFM is intuitively appealing, it does not operate as well when the goals and output measures of the firm or agency are numerous and unclear—a scenario that is quite common in the public sector. ^ When used as a theoretical framework in public policy, three of the key underlying assumptions of the PFM are frequently violated: (1) the unidimensionality of goals; (2) input and output measures clearly related to the goals; and (3) operation in a market framework. These violations can lead to misleading policy prescriptions, as policy PFMs are often mis-specified and do not account for public agencies operating under economies of scope. ^ Using education policy case study, a qualitative phenomenological approach was used analyzing telephone interviews from 32 high school principals from across the country. Quantitative techniques were also employed using a pooled time series analysis of Texas school districts (1994–1999) and Texas school campuses (1994–1998) across three separate models and six different dependent variables. The findings from these analyses provide considerable evidence to suggest that public agencies do operate under economies of scope and that the violations of the three PFM assumptions do have a substantive impact on policy prescription. Remedial procedures are available, requiring more rigorous model specification and research methodologies. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Granberg-Rademacker, Jeffrey Scott, "From the school yard to the scrap yard: An analysis of production function models on public issues" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3074077.