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Infrastructure and inequality


  • Chatterjee, Santanu
  • Turnovsky, Stephen J.


We develop a model in which public capital is both an engine of growth and a determinant of the distributions of wealth, income, and welfare. Government investment increases wealth inequality over time, regardless of its financing. The time path of income inequality is, however, highly sensitive to financing policies, and is often characterized by sharp intertemporal tradeoffs, with income inequality declining in the short run but increasing in the long run. Public investment generates a positive correlation between growth and income inequality along the transition path, but their short-run and long-run relationship depends critically on (i) how externalities impinge on allocation decisions, (ii) financing policies, and (iii) the time period of consideration. Finally, these policies also generate sharp trade-offs between average welfare and its distribution, with government investment improving average welfare, but also increasing its dispersion. Our results are obtained numerically but extensive sensitivity analysis confirms their robustness across key parameter values.

Suggested Citation

  • Chatterjee, Santanu & Turnovsky, Stephen J., 2012. "Infrastructure and inequality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1730-1745.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:56:y:2012:i:8:p:1730-1745 DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2012.08.003

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    Cited by:

    1. Linus Mattauch & Ottmar Edenhofer & David Klenert & Sophie Bénard, 2014. "Public Investment when Capital is Back - Distributional Effects of Heterogeneous Saving Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 4714, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Bruce, Neil & Turnovsky, Stephen J., 2013. "Social security, growth, and welfare in overlapping generations economies with or without annuities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 12-24.
    3. repec:eee:dyncon:v:83:y:2017:i:c:p:162-174 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Calderon, Cesar & Serven, Luis, 2014. "Infrastructure, growth, and inequality : an overview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7034, The World Bank.
    5. David Klenert & Linus Mattauch & Ottmar Edenhofer & Kai Lessmann, 2014. "Infrastructure and Inequality: Insights from Incorporating Key Economic Facts about Household Heterogeneity," CESifo Working Paper Series 4972, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Parantap Basu & Yoseph Getachew, 2017. "Redistributive Innovation Policy, Inequality and Efficiency," CEGAP Working Papers 2017_02, Durham University Business School.
    7. Bom, Pedro R.D. & Ligthart, Jenny E., 2014. "Public infrastructure investment, output dynamics, and balanced budget fiscal rules," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 334-354.
    8. Bajar, Sumedha & Rajeev, Meenakshi, 2015. "Impact of infrastructure provisioning on inequality: Evidence from India," Working Papers 337, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.
    9. Linus Mattauch & Ottmar Edenhofer & David Klenert & Sophie Bénard, 2016. "Distributional Effects of Public Investment when Wealth and Classes are Back," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 603-629, July.
    10. Getachew, Yoseph Yilma, 2016. "Credit constraints, growth and inequality dynamics," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 364-376.
    11. Siciliano, Giuseppina & Urban, Frauke, 2017. "Equity-based Natural Resource Allocation for Infrastructure Development: Evidence From Large Hydropower Dams in Africa and Asia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 130-139.
    12. Santanu Chatterjee & Olaf Posch & Dennis Wesselbaum, 2017. "Delays in Public Goods," CESifo Working Paper Series 6341, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Jan Siegmeier & Linus Mattauch & Max Franks & David Klenert & Anselm Schultes & Ottmar Edenhofer, 2015. "A Public Finance Perspective on Climate Policy: Six Interactions That May Enhance Welfare," Working Papers 2015.31, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    14. repec:ilo:ilowps:487274 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:1:p:175-186 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Turnovsky, Stephen J., 2015. "Economic growth and inequality: The role of public investment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 204-221.
    17. Getachew, Yoseph Y. & Turnovsky, Stephen J., 2015. "Productive government spending and its consequences for the growth–inequality tradeoff," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 621-640.

    More about this item


    Public capital; Growth; Inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights


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