To what extent can long-term investments in infrastructure reduce inequality?

Emma Hooper, Sanjay Peters, Patrick Pintus

Abstract


By reviewing US state-level panel data on infrastructure spending and on per capita income inequality from 1950 to 2010, this paper sets out to test whether an empirical link exists between infrastructure and inequality. Panel regressions with fixed effects show that an increase in the growth rate of spending on highways and higher education in a given decade correlates negatively with Gini indices at the end of the decade, thus suggesting a causal effect from growth in infrastructure spending to a reduction in inequality through better access to education and opportunities for employment. More significantly, this relationship is more pronounced with inequality at the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution. In addition, infrastructure expenditures on highways are shown to be more effective at reducing inequality. By carrying out a counterfactual experiment, the results show that those US states with a significantly higher bottom Gini coefficient in 2010 had underinvested in infrastructure during the previous decade. From a policy-making perspective, new innovations in finance for infrastructure investments are developed, for the US, other industrially advanced countries and also for developing economies.


Keywords


public infrastructure; education; highways; income inequality; US state panel data; fixed effects models

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24294/jipd.v2i2.858

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