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How Productive is Public Capital? A Meta-Analysis


  • Pedro R. D. Bom
  • Jenny Ligthart


The paper analyzes the contribution of public capital to private output using several meta-analytical techniques. Both fixed and random effects models are estimated by Weighted Least Squares. Sample overlap across studies is explicitly controlled for by employing a ‘full’ Generalized Least Squares estimator. The weighted average output elasticity of public capital amounts to 0.08 after correcting for publication bias. A substantial part of the heterogeneity across studies is explained by study design parameters, such as econometric specification, estimation technique, empirical model, type of public capital, and level of aggregation of public capital data. The large elasticities of public capital found in the early literature seem to be caused by either unidentified (but present) cointegrating relationships or spurious relationships in national time series.

Suggested Citation

  • Pedro R. D. Bom & Jenny Ligthart, 2008. "How Productive is Public Capital? A Meta-Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 2206, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2206

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. AfDB AfDB, 2016. "North Africa - Working paper – Public Investment and Growth in the Maghreb Countries," Working Paper Series 2335, African Development Bank.
    2. Pedro Gomes & Francois Pouget, 2008. "Corporate Tax Competition and the Decline of Public Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2384, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Younis, Fizza, 2014. "Significance of Infrastructure Investment for Economic Growth," MPRA Paper 72659, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Jun 2015.
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    5. Melo, Patricia C. & Graham, Daniel J. & Noland, Robert B., 2009. "A meta-analysis of estimates of urban agglomeration economies," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 332-342, May.
    6. Benos, Nikos & Zotou, Stefania, 2014. "Education and Economic Growth: A Meta-Regression Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 669-689.
    7. Valter Di Giacinto & Giacinto Micucci & Pasqualino Montanaro, 2012. "The Macroeconomic Impact of Infrastructures: A Literature Review and Empirical Analysis on the Case of Italy," QA - Rivista dell'Associazione Rossi-Doria, Associazione Rossi Doria, issue 1, March.
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    10. Bah, El-hadj & Fang, Lei, 2015. "Impact of the business environment on output and productivity in Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 159-171.
    11. Cristina Checherita-Westphal & Andrew Hughes Hallett & Philipp Rother, 2014. "Fiscal sustainability using growth-maximizing debt targets," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(6), pages 638-647, February.
    12. Kitlinski, Tobias, 2015. "The robustness of the effects of public investment in infrastructure on private output: Evidence for Germany," Ruhr Economic Papers 560, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    13. Peter J. Stauvermann & Ronald R. Kumar, 2015. "The Dilemma of International Capital Tax Competition in the Presence of Public Capital and Endogenous Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 16(2), pages 255-272, November.
    14. Melo, Patricia C. & Graham, Daniel J. & Brage-Ardao, Ruben, 2013. "The productivity of transport infrastructure investment: A meta-analysis of empirical evidence," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 695-706.
    15. repec:taf:uitjxx:v:30:y:2016:i:4:p:263-294 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Yongzheng Liu & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2015. "Public Input Competition under Stackelberg Equilibrium: A Note," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(6), pages 1022-1037, December.
    17. World Bank Group, "undated". "Africa's Pulse, No. 15, April 2017," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26485, The World Bank.
    18. Jamal Bouoiyour & Refk Selmi, 2016. "A Synthesis of the Effects of Exchange Rate Volatility on International Trade: A Meta-Regression Analysis," The International Trade Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(4), pages 263-294, August.
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    20. E. Hooper & S. Peters & P. Pintus, 2017. "To What Extent Can Long-Term Investment in Infrastructure Reduce Inequality?," Working papers 624, Banque de France.
    21. Yongzheng Liu & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2011. "Public Input Competition, Stackelberg Equilibrium and Optimality," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1123, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    22. Gomes, Pedro & Pouget, Francois, 2008. "Corporate tax competition and the decline of public investment," Working Paper Series 928, European Central Bank.
    23. Pellervo Hamalainen, 2009. "Review of literature on the productivity of public capital," Discussion Papers 55, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    24. Celbis, M.G. & Crombrugghe, D. de & Muysken, J., 2014. "Public investment and regional politics: The case of Turkey," MERIT Working Papers 020, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

    More about this item


    public capital; infrastructure; public investment; meta-analysis; meta-regression analysis; publication bias;

    JEL classification:

    • H54 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Infrastructures


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