Impact Reports

Economic Analysis of Extension Programming in Island County, Washington

2016

Benefit-cost analysis, return-on-investment analysis, and cost-effectiveness analysis commonly are used to evaluate efficacy of specific Extension programs or services. However, few county Extension programs work within a vacuum, and county Extension staff often are dependent on each other to meet both logistical and programming needs. Thus, materials, infrastructure, and even personnel time may be shared across programs. Similarly, benefits might be accrued in a manner not documented previously. The objective of this project is to calculate how residents of a small community value Extension as a whole, as well as how they value specific Extension programs separately. Island County provides an excellent opportunity to look at a diverse set of Extension programs, yet it is small enough to develop the basis of a model.

Benefit-cost analysis, return-on-investment analysis, and cost-effectiveness analysis commonly are used to evaluate efficacy of specific Extension programs or services. However, few county Extension programs work within a vacuum, and county Extension staff often are dependent on each other to meet both logistical and programming needs. Thus, materials, infrastructure, and even personnel time may be shared across programs. Similarly, benefits might be accrued in a manner not documented previously. The objective of this project is to calculate how residents of a small community value Extension as a whole, as well as how they value specific Extension programs separately. Island County provides an excellent opportunity to look at a diverse set of Extension programs, yet it is small enough to develop the basis of a model.

Work began in earnest in January 2013 upon receipt of an internal grant, which allowed the principle investigator to interview Island County Extension staff, funded a School of Economic Sciences graduate student, supported mail surveys, and financed interviews with Extension volunteers, local leaders, business owners, and members of the general public. There were approximately 31,796 tax-paying households in 2012 in Island County, and a tax of approximately $10.80 would fund the 2012 Island County Extension budget of $343,222. Using interval regression models, we estimated the hypothetical willingness to pay for a WSU Extension office in Island County. We found that, on average, survey participants from the general population were willing to pay about $12 annually to have an Extension office in Island County. WSU volunteers and alumni or, simply, the affiliated population, were willing to pay about $15. Additionally, the affiliated population subsample has a greater willingness to pay for each program compared to the general population subsample, in terms of both inclination to pay and the average amount they were willing to pay. Both groups had the highest willingness to pay for 4-H youth development, at around $9 annually. This, perhaps, indicates the community’s recognition of the substantial external societal benefits of youth development programs.

Why might the affiliated population subsample have a higher willingness to pay than the general population subsample? We found that there were two underlying reasons for the difference in willingness to pay between the two subsamples – inclination to volunteer and knowledge. The willingness to pay among those who volunteer, either in WSU Extension programs or non-WSU community organizations, is higher than those who do not usually volunteer in community activities.

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