Christine Neill

Associate Professor of Economics
Wilfrid Laurier University

150 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 3G7 Canada
Tel: (416) 946-5299, Fax: (416) 978-6713


Journal Articles

Rising Student Employment: the Role of Tuition Fees. Education Economics, 23(1): 101-121
Education Economics, 23(1): 101-121

In 1979, less than 30 per cent of full-time university students in Canada worked for pay during the academic term. By 2000 this had risen to 45 per cent. I find that no economic variable other than tuition fees – which can account for half of the rise – can explain this increase. Groups that saw the biggest increases in employment in response to tuition fee increases also had a relatively small enrolment response. The results suggest that the ability to increase earned income during the semester plays an important role in mitigating the effects of fee increases on individuals’ enrolment decisions.

Delivering Government Grants to Students Through the RESP System: Distributional Implications
With Azim Essaji. Canadian Tax Journal, 60(3): 635-49

Can Infrastructure Spending Reduce Local Unemployment? Evidence from an Australian Roads Program
With Andrew Leigh. Economics Letters, 113(2): 150-153

Studies of the effect of government spending on unemployment are potentially confounded by reverse causality. To address the endogeneity problem, we exploit variation in a pork-barrel road-building program, and find that higher government expenditure on road-building substantially reduces local unemployment.

Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data.
With Andrew Leigh. American Law and Economics Review, 12(2): 462-508

In 1997, Australia implemented a gun buyback program that reduced the stock of firearms by around one-fifth (and nearly halved the number of gun-owning households). Using differences across states, we test whether the reduction in firearms availability affected homicide and suicide rates. We find that the buyback led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80 per cent, with no significant effect on non-firearm death rates. The effect on firearm homicides is of similar magnitude, but is less precise. The results are robust to a variety of specification checks, and to instrumenting the state-level buyback rate.

Tuition Fees and the Demand for University Places.
Economics of Education Review, 28(5): 561-570

Estimating the effect of tuition fee increases on demand for a university education is complicated by the potential endogeneity of tuition fees. The relative homogeneity of university tuition fees within Canadian provinces and the role of provincial governments in university funding and policies, provides an opportunity to use changes in the political party in power to identify plausibly exogenous changes in tuition fees. The IV estimates suggest sizeable effects of fees relative to naïve estimates, and to previous Canadian studies – a C$1000 increase in university tuition fees is estimated to reduce the enrolment rate by two to three percentage points.

Do Gun Buy-backs Save Lives? Evidence from Time Series Data. With Andrew Leigh.
Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 20(2): 145-162

Three recent papers have examined the effect of a national tightening of firearm legislation and gun buy-back in Australia in 1996-1997 on firearm and non-firearm death rates. Despite analysing almost the same data, the three papers reach rather different conclusions. In this article, we highlight key methodological concerns with the papers. We also make some judgments as to the evidence on the effectiveness of the Australian legislation. Drawing strong conclusions from simple time series analysis is not warranted, but to the extent that this evidence points anywhere, it is towards the firearms buy-back reducing gun deaths.
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Book Chapters

Natural Resource Shocks, Labour Market Conditions, and Post-Secondary Enrolment Rates.
With Michal Burdzy, in Finnie, R., R. Mueller, M. Frenette and A. Sweetman (eds) (2010), Pursuing Higher Education in Canada: Economic, Social and Policy Dimensions, Queen’s University School of Policy Studies: Kingston

Commodity price booms can have important effects on labour markets and, as a consequence, potentially on inidviduals’ education decisions. In this paper we estimate that a decline in oil prices of around C$50 per barrel – around the same magnitude as the recent decline – would lead to an increase in university enrolments among 17-24 year olds in Alberta of about 3 percentage points relative to other provinces, but would have little effect on college enrolments. This effect is in addition to any effect of the oil price shock on enrolments that operates through the unemployment rate. If oil prices remain low, the Alberta government should expect to come under pressure to increase its spending on post-secondary education (universities in particular) despite the fiscal implications.

Remain, Retrain or Retire: Options for older workers following job loss.
With Tammy Schirle, in Abbott, Michael G., Charles M. Beach, Robin W. Boadway and James G. MacKinnon (eds) (2009) Retirement Policy Issues in Canada. Proceedings of the John Deutsche Institute Conference on Retirement Issues. John Deutsche Institute/Queens University Press: Kingston

As the Canadian population continues to age, so does its workforce. There are concerns among policy makers that stark labour shortages may occur as the baby boomers enter retirement. There are also concerns that an ageing workforce is less mobile, less able to adjust to technological change and other shocks to the economy, and may be particularly hard hit by job loss. In this paper, we discuss policies designed to reduce the costs to older individuals affected by such labour market shocks and potentially improve the adjustment of the economy over the long run.

Policy Papers

The Generosity of Student Financial Aid Programs in Canada and their University Enrolment Effects.
With Costa Kapsalis. Report prepared for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (April 2010).

The key objective of this work is to estimate the effect of student loans on university participation rates. Because student loan availability is universal in Canada, we cannot estimate the effect of student loan availability relative to non-availability. In this paper, we explore two different estimation approaches. In the first, we examine the effect of increasing loan limits. This would affect mostly youth from relatively low income families. In the second, we explore whether increasing the overall generosity of the program increases enrolments – this can affect individuals coming from families with a wide range of incomes. Our results show that increasing loan limits does increase enrolments, particularly (as expected) for students from low income families. We do not find any reliable estimates of the effect of broader increases in loan program generosity however.

PSE Switchers and Stickers: an analysis using the Youth in Transition Survey.
The decision to enrol in post-secondary education includes a decision on an institution and a field of specialisation – a program of study. Students often decide that their initial choice of program was incorrect, and switch programs. This paper discusses the characteristics of those individuals who switch, and provides some preliminary discussion of the reasons why individuals switch. We briefly discuss some of the policy implications, including the extent to which government-provided student loan programs may affect individuals’ decisions.

Can we say whether the Canada Millennium Scholarship bursaries have affected post-secondary enrolments?
Paper prepared for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (March 2007)

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF) was established with a $2.5 billion endowment in 1999, with the goal of distributing all its capital for the purposes of student financial aid between 2000 and 2010. The goals of the program were to increase access to post-secondary education, especially among students facing economic and social barriers, and to reduce student debt. This paper examines whether there is any evidence that the first of these goals was met, drawing on statistics on post-secondary enrolments and persistence, and examining the likely distributional effects of the bursaries. There is reason to think on theoretical grounds that the bursaries – which were primarily paid in the form of a reduction in student debt, and therefore primarily increased resources to students only once they were in repayment of their student loans (after leaving PSE) – would not have had very large effects. On the other hand, data on post-secondary participation shows there was a substantial increase in university enrolments and perhaps in some increase in university persistence after 2000. Unfortunately, it is impossible to attribute this to the CMSF bursary program because of the unusual way the program was implemented. It is unlikely that there is any reliable way to evaluate the effects on enrolments of the CMSF bursary program, even if more informative data were available.

Canada’s Tuition and Education Tax Credits.
Millennium Research Paper No. 30. Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation: Montreal. (May 2007)

Valued at $1.8 billion annually, tuition and education tax credits are one of the largest forms of government support available to post-secondary students in Canada. The tax credits, however, have a very low profile, are underused and, most importantly, may be doing very little to encourage young people to pursue higher education. If the tax credits are improving neither access to Canadian post-secondary institutions nor the affordability of studies at those institutions, could a more creative use be made of these funds to expand student enrolment?

Working Papers

Full-day kindergarten and children's academic outcomes
With Jean Eid and Phil Leonard

Tax expenditures vs budgetary expenditures for Canadian post-secondary education
With Azim Essaji (WLU) – LCERPA Working Paper 2010-3 (November 2010)

Student loan limits and educational outcomes.
CLSRN Working Paper No. 4 (September, 2007)

Intergenerational transmission of education among Aboriginal Canadians.
With Joshua van Loon

Labour market effects of full-day kindergarten.
With Elizabeth Dhuey and Jean Eid

Universally Subsidized Day Care and its Effects on Youth Crime Rates: Evidence from Quebec
With Kirsten Saguil
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