Federal benefit programs, including federal student aid, are designed to aid targeted populations. Behavioral responses to these programs may alter the incidence of their benefits, a possibility that receives less attention in the literature compared to tax incidence. I demonstrate the importance of benefit incidence analysis by showing that the intended cost reductions of tax-based federal student aid are substantially offset by institutional price increases for a sample of 4-year colleges and universities. Contrary to the goal of policymakers, I find that tax-based aid crowds out institutional aid roughly dollar-for-dollar. Unfortunately, it is not clear how institutions utilize these captured resources, so that the ultimate incidence of the programs is uncertain.
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