Estimating the impact of low-income universal service programs

Daniel A. Ackerberg, David R. Deremer, Michael H. Riordan, Gregory L. Rosston, Bradley S. Wimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This policy study uses U.S. Census microdata to evaluate how subsidies for universal telephone service vary in their impact across low-income racial groups, gender, age, and home ownership. Our demand specification includes both the subsidized monthly price (Lifeline program) and the subsidized initial connection price (Linkup program) for local telephone service. Our quasi-maximum likelihood estimation controls for location differences and instruments for price endogeneity. The microdata allow us to estimate the effects of demographics on both elasticities of telephone penetration and the level of telephone penetration. Based on our preferred estimates, the subsidy programs increased aggregate penetration by 6.1% for households below the poverty line. Our results suggest that automatic enrollment programs are important and that Linkup is more cost-effective than Lifeline, which calls into question a recent FCC (2012) decision to reduce Linkup subsidies in favor of Lifeline. Our study can inform the evaluation of similar universal service policies for Internet access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Organization
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Demand estimation
  • Subsidies
  • Telecommunications
  • Universal service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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