Raphaël Parchet, Frédéric Robert-Nicoud, 15 October 2021

The development of the Swiss highway network from 1960 to 2010 influenced the residential and job compositions of municipalities. The advent of an entrance/exit ramp within 10 km of a municipality caused a long-term 24% increase in the share of top-income taxpayers. The welfare gains of residents of connected municipalities relative to residents in non-connected municipalities range from only 2% for the low-income group to 12% for the top-income group. Highways also contributed to job and residential urban sprawl.

Ana Paula Franco, Sebastian Galiani, Pablo Lavado, 29 July 2021

Historical institutions can have long-lasting effects on societies and economies. The Inca Road has been a linchpin of the colonial economy in the New World, but its impact on current development has not been studied in great depth. This column examines the impact of the road on today’s educational, development, and labour outcomes. Proximity to the Inca Road increased the average level of educational attainment and decreased stunting among children by 5%. It boosted average hourly wages by 20% and reduced informality by six percentage points. Moreover, these effects were around 40% greater among women.

Hans Koster, Takatoshi Tabuchi, Jacques-François Thisse, 09 May 2021

Modern transportation infrastructure can help foster cheaper travel and a better-connected economy. This column shows that improvements in transportation can affect the location choices of firms in ways that are often beneficial to large regions, but may be detrimental to small intermediate regions through job losses. Using data from Japan’s high speed rail network, the authors confirm that ‘in-between’ municipalities that are connected to the network witness a sizeable decrease in employment.

Roberto Bonfatti, Steven Poelhekke, 03 December 2020

Africa’s interior-to-coast roads are well placed to export natural resources, but not to support regional trade. Are they the optimal response to geography and comparative advantage, or the result of suboptimal political distortions? This column investigates the political determinants of road paving in West Africa in 1965–2014. Autocracies focused more than democracies on connecting metal and mineral deposits to ports, resulting in more interior-to-coast networks. This deposit-to-port bias was only present for deposits located on the elite’s ethnic homeland, suggesting that Africa’s interior-to-coast roads were the result of ethnic favouritism by autocracies.

Taylor Jaworski, Carl Kitchens, Sergey Nigai, 01 November 2020

The interaction between domestic transportation networks, market integration, and globalisation is important for understanding the value of domestic infrastructure investment and weighing these against the substantial costs of building and maintaining domestic roads. Using an endogenous specification of domestic and international trade costs that takes into account the availability of the road network and congestion levels, this column estimates that the total value of the entire US highway system was $619 billion in 2012 dollars, which accounts for 3.9% of US aggregate GDP in 2012. The results suggest that decisions on how much to invest in domestic infrastructure should be made in conjunction with considering how improvements in the domestic transportation networks would affect domestic and international trade as well as distributional consequences for different locations within a country.

Emanuele Ciani, Guido de Blasio, Samuele Poy, 11 July 2020

Large transportation infrastructure projects are considered a promising investment to spur economic growth in lagging areas by many policymakers. This column presents historical evidence that questions this assumption. It studies the most important Italian infrastructure project in the aftermath of WWII: the 440km freeway connecting the Southern regions of Italy. It finds, that while the freeway caused a significant reorganization of both economic activity and population from places far from the freeway to locations close to it, there is no evidence that it had any long-run effect on economic growth of the Southern region as a whole.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Tobias Ketterer, 18 November 2019

Institutions are an important ingredient for economic growth. Using data from European regions for the period 1999-2013, this column shows that government quality matters for regional growth, and that relative improvements in the quality of government are a powerful driver of development. One-size-fits-all policies for lagging regions are not the solution. Government quality improvements are essential for low-growth regions, and in low-income regions, basic endowment shortages are still the main barrier to development. 

Matthias Flückiger, Erik Hornung, Mario Larch, Markus Ludwig, Allard Mees, 28 August 2019

Against the backdrop of megaprojects such as the TEN-T Core Network or the Belt and Road initiative, assessing the role of transport infrastructure in fostering economic integration has gained renewed interest. While there is clear evidence that reducing transport costs increases economic integration in the short run, this column emphasises that we should be aware of the profound and lasting effects that past infrastructure investments have on economic and cultural integration.

Francois de Soyres, Alen Mulabdic, Michele Ruta, 12 July 2019

Common transport infrastructure can improve welfare for participating countries, but they are costly undertakings with potentially asymmetric effects on trade and income of individual countries. This column uses new data on China’s Belt and Road transport projects to quantify the economic impact of the initiative. Welfare in participating countries could increase by 2.8% if all projects are implemented, but some countries have a negative welfare effect because of the high cost of the infrastructure. 

Martin Melecky, 12 July 2019

There has been increasing interest in how infrastructure can help close gender gaps in developing countries. Based on studies of various highway investment programmes in Asia, this column reveals how highways can help women can seize better jobs if they are already employed. Compared with men, however, women have some distinct demands from road corridor programmes and could face gender-specific risks, notably during the construction of the highways. 

Prottoy A. Akbar, Victor Couture, Gilles Duranton, Adam Storeygard, 29 June 2019

Urban transportation in developing countries is prioritised for massive investments, yet little is known about the determinants of urban mobility in these countries. This column applies a methodology for measuring the performance of overall motor vehicle transportation in a city to the 154 largest cities in India. It finds that there are substantial differences in mobility speeds across large Indian cities but that the variation is driven primarily by uncongested mobility, not by congestion delays. This implies that typical policy measures attempting to improve urban mobility are missing the mark altogether.

Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Andreas Kappeler, 18 April 2018

Adequate infrastructure is essential for growth. Since the financial crisis, however, public sector infrastructure investment in the EU has been scaled back. This column uses data from a recent survey to explore the causes of Europe’s infrastructure gaps. The results suggest that more coordination and planning are needed for infrastructure projects, both at the EU and national levels. Efforts to attract private investors also need to continue.

Christian Helmers, Henry Overman, 25 November 2017

Highly localised research infrastructure investment, such as in the Large Hadron Collider, often leads to major scientific breakthroughs, but there is little evidence on the longer-term and wider geographical impacts on scientific output. This column uses the example of the UK’s Diamond Light Source to study the impact of large facilities on where scientific research is conducted. Not only do such investments substantially increase directly related research in the local area, they also create spillovers on unrelated research through knowledge sharing.

Steve Gibbons, Henry Overman, Teemu Lyytikainen, Rosa Sanchis-Guarner, 27 July 2017

New government policy initiatives aim to reverse the trend of declining investment in Britain’s road network. This column asks whether such investment generates economic benefits, either locally or nationally. Places with improved accessibility from new major roads over 1998-2008 experienced increases in the number of local firms and, consequently, higher local employment. At the same time, businesses already operating in these areas shed workers while maintaining existing levels of output, implying higher labour productivity.

Marco Annunziata, 16 August 2014

Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.

Nauro Campos, 13 June 2014

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is upon us. This column argues that there will be plenty of partying, but also plenty of protests fuelled by the gross mismanagement and limited economic benefits from hosting the Cup. Stadia may be ready, but much planned infrastructure has already been abandoned. Indeed, rent-seeking may be one reason nations bid for the Cup. Since the returns to transportation infrastructure are higher in poor countries, the international community should work to stamp out corruption so that poor countries can continue to host mega-events like the World Cup.

Henrik Braconier, Mauro Pisu, 20 February 2014

Despite substantial integration, national borders still provide a large obstacle to trade in Europe. This column shows that much of these ‘iceberg costs’ can be attributed to underdeveloped infrastructure, namely roads. Improving international roadways to the level of national ones could substantially raise gains to trade.

Carl Kitchens, 29 January 2014

Economists have found that large-scale infrastructure investments tend to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. However, there has been relatively little research on the effects of smaller, more targeted investment projects. This column discusses recent research on the effects of the US Rural Electrification Administration, which provided subsidised loans for connecting farms to the electric grid. Counties that received electricity through the REA witnessed smaller declines in agricultural productivity, smaller declines in land values, and more retail activity than similar counties that did not.

Liam Brunt, Edmund Cannon, 27 July 2013

The EU justifies its funding of large-scale transport infrastructure projects by arguing that it leads to more market integration. Does it work? This column uses evidence from Britain and its Industrial Revolution to assess the extent to which transport infrastructure projects increase market integration. By comparing industrialising Britain with today’s EU, the EU’s record turns out to be quite good and its investment in large infrastructure projects has led to significant price dispersion. However, recent financial turmoil has undermined its efforts in recent years.

Jerónimo Carballo, Christian Volpe, Ana Cusolito, 13 July 2013

Expanding road infrastructure is often justified on the basis of its presumed effects on exports. Yet, available evidence on to what extent these effects really materialise is very limited due to difficulties faced in convincingly identifying true casual relationships. Historical road networks can help overcome this endogeneity challenge. This column provides evidence for Peru based on the Inca road network and suggests that improvements in road infrastructure have had a significant impact on firms’ exports and thereby on job creation.

Pages

Events

CEPR Policy Research