Study Description

Government Crowd-Out of Private Contributions to Public Radio: An Empirical Study, 1990-1996.

Unique Identification Number:
BA-008-001-1-1-United States-DPLS-1990

The data were collected for a study of fundraising and crowd-out at noncommercial radio stations. The term crowd-out refers to the theoretically plausible reduction in private contributions when government funding is increased. The data come from publicly available IRS Form 990 tax returns, filed annually by all tax-exempt organizations. The dataset is a short unbalanced panel with a total of 419 observations on 104 different noncommercial radio stations. There are 29 variables in the data set, most of which correspond to information reported on lines 1a through 21 of the Form 990. Additional information includes the name of the station's license holder, the location of the station, the number of potential listeners, and an indicator of National Public Radio affiliation.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is the primary source of tax-based revenue for noncommercial broadcasters in America. In 1996, 136 of the CPB's radio grant recipients were licensed to private nonprofit organizations. The principal investigator requested copies of the Form 990 for each of these 136 radio stations. The IRS was able to provide at least one return for 104 of the stations. In most cases, returns were available for multiple years between 1990 and 1996. The number of observations per station is distributed as follows:
Number of years obtained Number of stations
0 32
1 5
2 8
3 17
4 28
5 41
6 5
** 419 observations on 104 different stations. 

As of 10/30/98 there were 5,649 licensed FM stations in the United States. 2,009 of them had noncommercial licenses according to the FCC's web site:

In 1996, 396 FM broadcasters received Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grants. The total amount of all their grants was $55 million. The recipients of these grants were typically FCC license holders, and can be classified as follows:   
Type of Licensee Number Total Grant Money Received
University or College 221 $29,000,000
Private Nonprofit Organization 136 $21,000,000
Local Government or School Board 25 $2,000,000
State Government Agency 11 $2,000,000
Other 3 $1,000,000
Total 396 $55,000,000

The above table was created by the Principal Investigator from information obtained through the following source: [Note: the CPB website no longer carries annual reports back that far.]

Technical Notes:
The original data are stored in a Microsoft Excel 97 spreadsheet. DPLS staff converted the spreadsheet file to a tab-delimited data file and wrote a SPSS setup statement file to help users read in the tab-delimited data file.  This tab-delimited raw ASCII data file contains some blank fields. This file was created using the Export function in Excel 97. The first two rows in the Excel spreadsheet have variable labels and a blank row. These two rows were removed before the data were exported from Excel. All the commas used as 1000 separator in line1a through line 21 in the spreadsheet were also removed before the data were exported. The raw ASCII tab-delimited file has 29 variables and 419 records. During the export, Excel inserted quotation marks to some of the Licenses. DPLS staff later used Microsoft Notepad to remove the quotation marks. In addition to an Excel file and a raw ASCII tab-delimited file, a SPSS PC system file is also provided. All three types of data files can be downloaded from this web site.
Data Format:
Microsoft Excel 97, SPSS PC system file and tab-delimited ASCII file.
Date of Study:
Geographic Coverage:
United States
Public good, nonprofit sector, crowd-out, public radio, tax return

Acknowledgement of Funding

The expenses associated with collecting the data were funded by the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.