Why Men Are Hard to Help

Kalamazoo, Michigan, holds a special place in the hearts of both Glenn Miller fans and public-policy scholars. In 1942, Miller sang that he’d “got a gal” in Kalamazoo. Today, policy wonks have something even more precious: a well-evaluated free-college program. And it works — but only for women.

Thanks to a group of anonymous benefactors, students educated in the city’s K-12 school system receive paid tuition at almost any college in the state. Other cities have similar initiatives, but the Kalamazoo Promise is unusually generous. It’s also one of the few programs of its kind to have been robustly evaluated — in this case by Timothy Bartik, Brad Hershbein, and Marta Lachowska of the Upjohn Institute. They found that the Kalamazoo Promise made a major difference in the lives of its beneficiaries — more so than other, similar programs made in theirs.

But the average impact disguises a stark gender divide. According to the evaluation team, women in the program “experience very large gains,” including an increase of 45% in college-completion rates, while “men seem to experience zero benefit.” The cost-benefit analysis showed an overall gain of $69,000 per female participant — a return on investment of at least 12% — compared to an overall loss of $21,000 for each male participant. In short, for men, the program was both costly and ineffective.

Read more at National Affairs