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Spatial Productivity Spillovers from Public Infrastructure: Evidence from State Highways


  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • Amy Ellen Schwartz


Is public sector infrastructure a key determinant of productivity? Traditional, project-based analyses of benefits and costs typically do not find large rates of return. Proponents of infrastructure spending instead point to regression-based analyses of the links between private productivity and public infrastructure that imply large productivity effects from public spending. The disparity in estimated returns is often attributed to geographic spillovers in productivity benefits that are not captured by disaggregated analyses. We examine the degree to which state highways provide productivity benefits beyond the narrow confines of each state's borders. Despite the fact that state highways -- especially the interstate highway system -- are designed at least in part with interstate linkages in mind, we find no evidence of quantitatively important productivity spillovers.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin & Amy Ellen Schwartz, 1995. "Spatial Productivity Spillovers from Public Infrastructure: Evidence from State Highways," NBER Working Papers 5004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5004
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Newey, Whitney & Rosen, Harvey S, 1989. "The Revenues-Expenditures Nexus: Evidence from Local Government Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 30(2), pages 415-429, May.
    2. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Is public expenditure productive?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-200, March.
    3. Alicia H. Munnell, 1990. "Why has productivity growth declined? Productivity and public investment," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jan, pages 3-22.
    4. Alicia H. Munnell, 1990. "How does public infrastructure affect regional economic performance?," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 34, pages 69-112.
    5. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas, 1993. "State-specific estimates of state and local government capital," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 185-209, April.
    6. Alicia H. Munnell, 1992. "Policy Watch: Infrastructure Investment and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 189-198, Fall.
    7. Case, Anne C. & Rosen, Harvey S. & Hines, James Jr., 1993. "Budget spillovers and fiscal policy interdependence : Evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 285-307, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • H54 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Infrastructures
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures


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