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Local Economic Development, Agglomeration Economies and the Big Push: 100 Years of Evidence from the Tennessee Valley Authority

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  • Patrick Kline

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

  • Enrico Moretti

    (Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Abstract

We study the long run effects of one of the most ambitious regional development programs in U.S. history: the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Using as controls authorities that were proposed but never approved by Congress, we find that the TVA led to large gains in agricultural employment that were eventually reversed when the program’s subsidies ended. Gains in manufacturing employment, by contrast, continued to intensify well after federal transfers had lapsed – a pattern consistent with the presence of agglomeration economies in manufacturing. Because manufacturing paid higher wages than agriculture, this shift raised aggregate income in the TVA region for an extended period of time. Economists have long cautioned that the local gains created by place based policies may be offset by losses elsewhere. We develop a structured approach to assessing the TVA’s aggregate consequences that is applicable to other place based policies. In our model, the TVA affects the national economy both directly through infrastructure improvements and indirectly through agglomeration economies. The model’s estimates suggest that the TVA’s direct investments yielded a significant increase in national manufacturing productivity, with benefits exceeding the program’s costs. However, the program’s indirect effects appear to have been limited: agglomeration gains in the TVA region were offset by losses in the rest of the country. Spillovers in manufacturing appear to be the rare example of a localized market failure that cancels out in the aggregate.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis in its series Working Paper Series with number 43_13.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:rim:rimwps:43_13

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Cited by:
  1. Moretti, Enrico & Wilson, Daniel J., 2014. "State incentives for innovation, star scientists and jobs: Evidence from biotech," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 20-38.
  2. Serafinelli, Michel, 2013. "Good Firms, Worker Flows and Productivity," MPRA Paper 47508, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Patrick Kline & Enrico Moretti, 2013. "Place Based Policies with Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 238-43, May.
  4. Oliver Falck & Stephan Heblich & Anne Otto, 2013. "Agglomerationsvorteile in der Wissensgesellschaft: Empirische Evidenz für deutsche Gemeinden," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 66(03), pages 17-21, 02.
  5. Monica Andini & Guido de Blasio, 2013. "Local development that money can’t buy: Italy’s Contratti di Programma," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 915, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  6. Berger, Thor & Enflo, Kerstin, 2014. "Locomotives of Local Growth: The Short- and Long-Term Impact of Railroads in Sweden," Lund Papers in Economic History 132, Department of Economic History, Lund University.

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