Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis
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Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis

Tools of the Trade

Edited by Scott Farrow

Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis provides detail and inspiration that extends and clarifies standard textbooks. Each short, self-contained module includes guidance to additional sources while many also provide class exercises. Classes for advanced undergraduates, practitioners, or Masters students could especially apply these tools of the trade.
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Chapter 18: Case studies in the classroom: Lessons learned

Stuart Shapiro


Using case studies to teach benefit-cost analysis brings out aspects of the practice of BCA that cannot be effectively taught in lectures. Case studies also allow students to demonstrate what they have learned from earlier lectures. I detail my experience using Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) from the federal government, analyzed and presented by students, to reinforce lessons from lectures on the quantitative aspects of BCA and to teach lessons about how understanding an analysis is more than a mechanical exercise. Among the lessons highlighted by the case studies are how one can combine two policies to obscure the net costs of one, how precision can mask inaccuracy, the use of co-benefits and confusion about baselines. Case studies can be invaluable in presenting a holistic view of benefit-cost analysis.

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