Health and Economic Benefits of Reducing the Number of Students per Classroom in US Primary Schools

Muennig, Peter A.; Woolf, Steven H.

Objectives. We estimated the costs associated with reducing class sizes in kindergarten through grade 3 as well as the effects of small class sizes on selected outcomes such as quality-adjusted life-years and future earnings.

Methods. We used multiple data sets to predict changes in the outcomes assessed according to level of educational attainment. We then used a Markov model to estimate future costs and benefits incurred and quality-adjusted life-years gained per additional high school graduate produced over time.

Results. From a societal perspective (incorporating earnings and health outcomes), class-size reductions would generate a net cost savings of approximately $168 000 and a net gain of 1.7 quality-adjusted life-years for each high school graduate produced by small classes. When targeted to low-income students, the estimated savings would increase to $196 000 per additional graduate. From a governmental perspective (incorporating public expenditures and revenues), the results of reducing class sizes ranged from savings in costs to an additional cost of $15000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained.

Conclusions. Reducing class sizes may be more cost-effective than most public health and medical interventions.


Also Published In

American Journal of Public Health

More About This Work

Academic Units
Health Policy and Management
American Public Health Association
Published Here
September 30, 2016