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Regional grants: are they worth it?


  • Colin Wren


Regional grants have recently come under scrutiny and are controversial. Some estimates put the employment effect of these grants at no more than 6,000 jobs in the first half of the 1990s, against expenditure of £500 million. Other aspects of the grants are questioned, such as their ability to attract foreign direct investment and their effect on productivity. This paper reviews these issues, focusing on the recent evidence for the Regional Selective Assistance scheme. It describes the nature and difficulties involved in policy evaluation, and finds that differences over the employment effect of the grants result from possible biases induced by the evaluation methodology and from differences in the job measure used. Overall, the paper argues that the regional grants are cost-effective in employment terms, but that expenditure is small relative to the scale of the problem, so that an expansion of the grants may be desirable.

Suggested Citation

  • Colin Wren, 2005. "Regional grants: are they worth it?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 26(2), pages 245-275, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:26:y:2005:i:2:p:245-275

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Michelle Gilmartin & David Learmouth & J Kim Swales & Peter McGregor & Karen Turner, 2013. "Regional Policy Spillovers: The National Impact of Demand-Side Policy in an Interregional Model of the UK Economy," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 45(4), pages 814-834, April.
    2. Gustavsson Tingvall, Patrik & Videnord, Josefin, 2017. "Regional Effects of Publicly Sponsored R&D Grants on SME Performance," Ratio Working Papers 289, The Ratio Institute.
    3. Criscuolo, Chiara & Martin, Ralf & Overman, Henry & Van Reenen, John, 2012. "The Causal Effects of an Industrial Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 6323, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Chiara Criscuolo & Ralf Martin & Henry G. Overman & John Van Reenen, 2012. "Some Causal Effects of an Industrial Policy," CEP Discussion Papers dp1113, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    5. Andy Pike & Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & John Tomaney & Gianpiero Torrisi & Vassilis Tselios, 2012. "In search of the ‘economic dividend’ of devolution: spatial disparities, spatial economic policy, and decentralisation in the UK," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 30(1), pages 10-28, February.
    6. Ankarhem, Mattias & Daunfeldt, Sven-Olov & Quoreshi, Shahiduzzaman & Rudholm, Niklas, 2009. "Do Regional Investment Grants Improve Firm Performance? Evidence from Sweden," Ratio Working Papers 137, The Ratio Institute.
    7. Jones, Jonathan & Wren, Colin, 2008. "Re-investment and the survival of foreign-owned plants," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33138, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Jonathan Jones & Colin Wren, 2008. "FDI Location Across British Regions and Inward Investment Policy," SERC Discussion Papers 0013, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    9. Jonathan Jones & Colin Wren, 2008. "Re-Investment and the Survival of Foreign-Owned Plants," SERC Discussion Papers 0003, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    10. Riccardo Crescenzi & Fabrizio De Filippis & Fabio Pierangeli, 2015. "In Tandem for Cohesion? Synergies and Conflicts between Regional and Agricultural Policies of the European Union," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(4), pages 681-704, April.
    11. Brülhart, Marius, 2014. "Agglomeration economies, taxable rents, and government capture: evidence from a place-based policy," Papers 835, World Trade Institute.
    12. Wren, Colin & Jones, Jonathan, 2009. "Re-investment and the survival of foreign-owned plants," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 214-223, March.
    13. Colin Wren & Jonathan Jones, 2011. "Assessing The Regional Impact Of Grants On Fdi Location: Evidence From U.K. Regional Policy, 1985–2005," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 497-517, August.
    14. Jones, Jonathan & Wren, Colin, 2008. "FDI location across British regions and inward investment policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33204, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    15. Jones, Jonathan & Wren, Colin, 2009. "The dynamics of FDI location: a markov analysis for British regions," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33497, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • R0 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General


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