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Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision

Author

Listed:
  • Dalgaard, Carl-Johan
  • Kaarsen, Nicolai
  • Olsson, Ola
  • Selaya, Pablo

Abstract

How persistent is public goods provision in a comparative perspective? We explore the link between infrastructure investments made during antiquity and the presence of infrastructure today, as well as the link between early infrastructure and economic activity both in the past and in the present, across the entire area under dominion of the Roman Empire at the zenith of its geographical extension. We find a remarkable pattern of persistence showing that greater Roman road density goes along with (a) greater modern road density, (b) greater settlement formation in 500 CE, and (c) greater economic activity in 2010. Interestingly, however, the degree of persistence in road density and the link between early road density and contemporary economic development is weakened to the point of insignificance in areas where the use of wheeled vehicles was abandoned from the first millennium CE until the late modern period. Taken at face value, our results suggest that infrastructure may be one important channel through which persistence in comparative development comes about.

Suggested Citation

  • Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Kaarsen, Nicolai & Olsson, Ola & Selaya, Pablo, 2018. "Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision," CEPR Discussion Papers 12745, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12745
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
    2. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak, 2016. "The Agricultural Origins of Time Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 3064-3103, October.
    3. Thomas Barnebeck Andersen & Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Pablo Selaya, 2016. "Climate and the Emergence of Global Income Differences," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 1334-1363.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Ancient Infrastructure and Economic Activity
      by msoderhall in NEP-HIS blog on 2018-04-14 04:19:32

    More about this item

    Keywords

    infrastructure; Persistence; Public Goods; Roman Empire; Roman roads;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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