Productivity and Prosperity Project Research Reports

Healthcare in Arizona: Worker Shortages, Economic Impact, and Socioeconomic Benefits, April 2024
Examines the extent of healthcare worker shortages in Arizona, calculates the economic impact of eliminating worker shortages, and estimates the direct medical costs and productivity losses of ill health.

Regional Economic Competitiveness, Part 1: Productivity and Prosperity in Arizona, May 2023
Examines various measures of productivity and prosperity in Arizona and its metropolitan areas, with comparisons to other states and similarly sized metro areas. 

Regional Economic Competitiveness, Part 2: Economic Clusters in Arizona, May 2023
Aggregates employment and earnings of industries into clusters in Arizona and its metropolitan areas, with comparisons to other states and similarly sized metro areas.

Regional Economic Competitiveness, Part 3: Business Location Factors and an Assessment of Arizona's Competitiveness, May 2023
Reviews the factors important to economic development and suggests ways in which the state's inferior competitiveness can be addressed.

The Importance of Investing in Arizona, October 2022
Investigates two challenges facing Arizona: low productivity and prosperity, and a changing world. Discusses how investment, particularly in education and the physical infrastructure, would address these challenges. 

STEM Economic Activity in Arizona, February 2021
This extensive paper summarizes the factors contributing to the growth and prosperity of U.S. metropolitan areas, particularly two measures of human capital: educational attainment and the STEM share of the economy. The latter is examined in detail, particularly for Arizona and each of its metro areas. Other indicators related to STEM also are examined for Arizona in comparison to the nation. Finally, the economic impact of STEM activities in Arizona is investigated.

STEM Economic Activity by Metropolitan Area, February 2021
STEM economic activity for each of the nation's 384 metropolitan areas is examined in this paper. The nation's leading metro areas on STEM intensity in 2019 and on the change in STEM share over time are identified in each of six size classes based on metro area employment in 2019.

STEM Economic Activity by State, February 2021
This paper examines the national pattern of STEM economic activity by state. The nation's leading states on STEM intensity in 2019 and on the change in STEM share over time are identified. The actual STEM shares are compared to "expected" shares that reflect each state's distribution of population across its metro and nonmetro areas.

Determinants of Growth and Prosperity in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, February 2021
This paper examines the factors associated with the population growth and prosperity of metro areas, with a particular focus on two measures of human capital: educational attainment and the STEM share of the economy. It includes a literature review and a number of regression analyses. The results are examined for selected metropolitan areas, including Phoenix and Tucson.

Declines Relative to the Nation in Arizona's Government Finance, Educational Attainment, and Economic Performance, January 2020
An update and extension to the September 2018 paper "The Relationship Between Government Finance, Educational Attainment, and Economic Performance," this paper concentrates on Arizona relative to the national average.

Causes of Arizona's Low Incomes, September 2019
This extensive paper ascertains the reasons why incomes in Arizona are so low, and have declined over time, relative to the nation and other states. Recommended actions to improve incomes — to raise the economic standard of living of Arizonans — are discussed. The issue was examined previously in the February 2010 Office of the University Economist report "The Magnitude and Causes of Arizona's Low Per Capita Income."

The Economic Impact of Raising the Educational Attainment of Arizona's Workforce: 2019 Update, July 2019
An update to the May 2015 paper, this paper calculates the economic benefits to Arizona of raising the educational attainment of the state's workforce. An impact is calculated based on historical data and simulations of future benefits are provided.

The Value of a College Education and the Burden of Student Loan Repayment, October 2018
Estimates the average financial return on investment of a bachelor's degree for men and women, examines the variation in the rate of return by field of study, and investigates the burden of student debt.

An Examination of Public Education in Arizona Compared to the Nation, October 2018
Provides a broad evaluation of public education in Arizona, with comparisons to other states and the nation. Elementary and secondary education as well as higher education are examined.

The Relationship Between Government Finance, Educational Attainment, and Economic Performance, September 2018
Compares states and the nation over time on government finance, including revenues and expenditures specific to education, educational attainment, and economic performance, as measured by productivity, prosperity, and aggregate growth. Examines the relationship between these topics.

Trade, Wage Inequality, and Regional Dislocation in the United States, With Reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trade With Mexico, January 2018
The evolution of international trade is discussed, addressing both the benefits of trade and local employment and wage dislocations that sometimes result from trade. NAFTA is specifically examined. Income and wage inequality also are discussed, with the effects from trade compared to the effects from technological changes and other factors.

Occupational Requirements, June 2017
This report examines occupational data, focusing on the typical requirements to obtain an entry-level position in each occupation, making comparisons of Arizona and its subregions to broader geographies.

The Geographic Distribution of Average Earnings Per Worker, May 2017
Average earnings per worker is analyzed by state and metropolitan area. The earnings figures are adjusted for the cost of living and for job quality. In addition, the relationship between earnings data for metropolitan areas and metro area size as measured by employment is examined.

Job Quality in the Metropolitan Areas of the United States, May 2017
An extension of the March 2017 report on job quality, this report examines the industrial job mix, the occupational job mix, and job quality in 2015 and the change between 2001 and 2015 for all metropolitan areas.

Job Quality in 2015 and the Change in Job Quality Between 2001 and 2015, March 2017
Examines job quality in Arizona and in subregions of the state relative to the national average. Also looks at job quality by state and for large metropolitan areas.

A Fiscal Comparison of Arizona and Utah, December 2016
This is the third paper comparing Arizona and Utah, focusing on the public finance systems of the two states. Utah's system is considered to be one of the best in the nation.

The Performance of the Economies of the Western States and Large Western Metropolitan Areas, November 2016
This paper is an extension of the October 2016 report on the performance of the Arizona economy (see below). It compares the performance of 10 western states and of the 17 metro areas within these states that have a population of at least 1 million (including Phoenix and Tucson).

The Performance of the Arizona Economy, Particularly During the Current Cycle, October 2016
Examines economic performance in Arizona and in subregions of the state in three categories: aggregate growth, prosperity, and productivity. The current economic cycle is compared to prior cycles. Also looks at the level of productivity and prosperity.

The Economic Base of Arizona, Metropolitan Phoenix, Metropolitan Tucson, and the Balance of the State: Updated With 2014 Data, July 2016
The economic base in 2014 and the change in the base between 2004 and 2014 are examined. For the first time, the base is defined by economic clusters.

The Educational Attainment of the Workforce, March 2016
Compares the educational attainment of the workforce in Arizona to the nation and to other states. Discusses educational attainment goals set by various organizations around the country.

An Economic Comparison of Arizona and Nevada, With an Emphasis on Education, February 2016
Compares Arizona and Nevada on various aspects of the economy, including economic development and economic performance. Analyzes educational achievement and attainment and examines education funding in the two states.

An Economic Comparison of Arizona and Utah, September 2015
Compares Arizona and Utah on various aspects of the economy, including economic development and economic performance.

The Economic Impact of Raising the Educational Attainment of Arizona's Workforce, May 2015
Standardizes the calculation of the economic benefits of raising educational attainment. Demonstrates the calculation based on historical data and simulates the effects in the future.

Educational Attainment by State and Metropolitan Area, May 2015
Examines recent data on the level of educational attainment, and the change over time, by state and metro area. Includes a focus on the workforce.

Aggregate Economic Growth in Arizona Since 2007, January 2015
Looks at aggregate economic growth in Arizona since the end of the last economic expansion from a historical perspective and relative to the rest of the nation. Also looks ahead to possible growth rates over the next several years.

Overview of Economic Competitiveness: Business and Individual Location Factors, With a Focus on Arizona, November 2014
Provides an introduction to economic competitiveness, discusses location factors important to businesses, and evaluates competitiveness in Arizona.

Measures of Prosperity and Productivity Adjusted for the Cost of Living, August 2014
Compares states and metropolitan areas on several indicators of productivity and prosperity, such as per capita personal income, with the indicators adjusted by a new measure of the cost of living.

A Review of PayScale and Its College Education ROI Rankings, January 2014
Critiques the return on investment rankings of institutions of higher education published by PayScale. Significant methodological and data issues are identified.

Has the Return to Investing in a College Education Declined?, December 2013
A number of articles have appeared recently questioning whether higher education provides a high financial return. This analysis finds that the rate of return on a college investment has decreased only modestly over the last decade and remains quite high.

An Overview of the Household Location Decision Process, with a Focus on Arizona, October 2013
The factors important to an individual contemplating making a long-distance move are discussed. The desirability of Arizona and its major metropolitan areas are evaluated. Migration trends also are examined.

Benefits From Improving Educational Attainment in Arizona, August 2012
Discusses the individual and community benefits associated with educational attainment and reviews the educational attainment of Arizonans. Assesses the public policies necessary to enhance attainment and estimates the economic benefits from an increase in attainment.

The Economic Base of Arizona, Metropolitan Phoenix, Metropolitan Tucson, the Balance of the State, and Chandler, June 2012
The economic base in 2009 and the change in the base between 2001 and 2009 are examined. The data are available from three Excel files:


An Assessment of Arizona's Economic Competitiveness, May 2012
A summary of Arizona's competitiveness position following legislative actions in 2011 and 2012.


An Overview of the Knowledge Economy, With a Focus on Arizona, August 2011
Definitions, importance, and characteristics of the global knowledge economy are discussed. Measurements of the size of the knowledge economy nationally and in Arizona are presented.

Causes of Varying Economic Performance By State, March 2011
Economic growth by state since 2000, particularly during the 2002-07 expansion and during the 2008-09 recession, is examined in this report.

The Magnitude and Causes of Arizona's Low Per Capita Income, February 2010
Explains why incomes in Arizona are below the national average, presents ways in which the shortfall may be addressed, and describes the differences between the various income measures that are available.

A Comparison of Arizona to Nations of Comparable Size, July 2009
Compares Arizona to 11 nations with developed economies of comparable size on a range of economic and demographic data.

The Contribution of Universities to Regional Economies, May 2009
A summary of the three ways that universities contribute to the local economy: as an economic base industry, as an institution of higher education, and as a research institution.

Economic Growth: The Importance of Education and Technological Development, January 2009
The importance of economic growth to the standard of living and individual well-being. Education and research and development are of particular importance to productivity gains and overall economic growth.

Supply and Demand of "STEM" Occupations in Arizona, November 2008
Employment, degree production, and migration of individuals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Preparing for an Arizona of 10 Million People: Meeting the Infrastructure Challenges of Growth, November 2008
A shorter version of the background report (see below), this report was distributed at the infrastructure conference held at Arizona State University on November 17, 2008.

Preparing for an Arizona of 10 Million People: Meeting the Infrastructure Challenges of Growth – Background Report, October 2008
Arizona's infrastructure needs are placed into national and historical contexts, the changing conditions in infrastructure provision that make building Arizona's infrastructure in the future a more problematic proposition than in the past are identified, and projections of the possible costs of providing infrastructure in Arizona over the next quarter century are provided.

The Societal Benefits of Higher Education, April 2008
A short summary of the societal benefits specific to Arizona, including an estimate of the benefits of increasing the percentage of university graduates.

Quantitative Examples of the Financial and Economic Benefits of Higher Education, March 2008
Looks at individual financial benefits, social financial benefits, and economic benefits of university research.

Targeting Federal Laboratories as a Catalyst for Private Investment in Research and Development, January 2008
A brief discussion of how the attraction of a federally funded research and development center would aid economic development, particularly private-sector research and development.

Sunbelt Growth and the Knowledge Economy: An Exploratory Analysis, June 2007
Looks at education and income characteristics of migrants (proxies for the knowledge economy) to the Sunbelt, and the economic performance of the Sunbelt.

University Research and Local Economic Development, August 2006
A review of studies that examine the extent to which university research contributes to economic growth and development.

High-Wage Jobs, May 2006
An offshoot of the work on job quality, this report examines high-wage jobs in the United States, Arizona, and other states.

Universities in the U.S. National Innovation System, March 2006
A review of research and development efforts in the United States, including the role played by universities.

Job Quality: 2004 Update, March 2006
An update of the initial analysis of job quality conducted in 2005, which presented a new way to calculate job quality nationally and by state. The initial reports are listed below:

Educational Attainment in Arizona Compared to All States, November 2005
A summary of educational attainment nationally and by state, with a particular focus on those active in the labor force.

Higher Education Enrollment and Finance in Arizona Compared to All States, October 2005
An analysis of public support for higher education nationally and by state.

The Value of Higher Education: Individual and Societal Benefits, October 2005
An in-depth look at the benefits to individuals, the economies where educated individuals work and live, and society in general of enhanced educational attainment.

Lessons From the Irish Miracle, June 2005
An analysis of Ireland's dramatic improvement in economic growth and prosperity, with comparisons to Arizona.

Jobs, Income and Growth in Arizona: Individual Versus Aggregate Measures of Economic Performance, March 2005
Compares Arizona's mediocre performance on per employee and per capita measures to its fast growth on overall measures.

The Economics of Early Care and Education in Arizona, March 2004
A discussion of the child care industry and its economic impact, a literature review of early care and education, and the costs and benefits of an early care and education program in Arizona.