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Roads to Prosperity or Bridges to Nowhere? Theory and Evidence on the Impact of Public Infrastructure Investment

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  • Sylvain Leduc
  • Daniel Wilson

Abstract

We examine the dynamic macroeconomic effects of public infrastructure investment both theoretically and empirically, using a novel data set we compiled on various highway spending measures. Relying on the institutional design of federal grant distributions among states, we construct a measure of government highway spending shocks that captures revisions in expectations about future government investment. We find that shocks to federal highway funding has a positive effect on local GDP both on impact and after 6 to 8 years, with the impact effect coming from shocks during (local) recessions. However, we find no permanent effect (as of 10 years after the shock). Similar impulse responses are found in a number of other macroeconomic variables. The transmission channel for these responses appears to be through initial funding leading to building, over several years, of public highway capital which then temporarily boosts private sector productivity and local demand. To help interpret these findings, we develop an open economy New Keynesian model with productive public capital in which regions are part of a monetary and fiscal union. We show that the presence of productive public capital in this model can yield impulse responses with the same qualitative pattern that we find empirically.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18042.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Publication status: published as Sylvain Leduc & Daniel Wilson, 2013. "Roads to Prosperity or Bridges to Nowhere? Theory and Evidence on the Impact of Public Infrastructure Investment," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 89 - 142.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18042

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Cited by:
  1. Kuralbayeva, Karlygash, 2013. "Optimal fiscal policy and different degrees of access to international capital markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 336-352.
  2. repec:fip:fedfsp:y:2012:i:oct15 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. John C. Williams, 2012. "The economy, fiscal policy, and monetary policy," Speech 111, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  4. Sylvain Leduc & Daniel J. Wilson, 2012. "Should transportation spending be included in a stimulus program? a review of the literature," Working Paper Series 2012-15, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Sylvain Leduc & Daniel Wilson, 2013. "Are state governments roadblocks to federal stimulus? Evidence from highway grants in the 2009 Recovery Act," Working Paper Series 2013-16, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

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