Publications

Public Policy Brief No. 4 | March 1993

Public Infrastructure Investment: A Bridge to Productivity Growth?

Public Capital and Economic Growth, by David Alan Aschauer; New Federal Spending for Infrastructure: Should We Let This Genie Out of the Bottle? by Douglas Holtz-Eakin

This brief presents contrasting views on the effects of public infrastructure investment on private sector productivity. David Alan Aschauer states that the slower rate of productivity growth since the early 1970s—coupled with an aging population, the declining proportion of workers to the total population, and other demographic factors—poses a dilemma for policymakers interested in strengthening the long-term relative position of the United States in an increasingly competitive global economic environment. He considers public infrastructure to be a factor in production and the decline in public capital to be responsible for part of the productivity slowdown. In contrast, Douglas Holtz-Eakin dismisses the conventional arguments for a federal infrastructure program by asserting that a large-scale public infrastructure program has no appreciable effect on productivity growth; in the current fiscal climate of scarce federal resources, a federal infrastructure program is not consistent with the goal of deficit reduction; there are better infrastructure strategies than new spending and massive construction programs; and policies aimed at increasing private rather than public investment will have a more positive impact on US competitiveness.

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Author(s):
David Alan Aschauer Douglas Holtz-Eakin

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