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DEEP Advanced Seminar in Economics

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The Welfare Effects of Transportation Infrastructure Improvements

Costas Arkolakis (Yale University)

12 avril 2017  -  11:00-12:30, salle Extranef 109

Host(s): Frederic Robert-Nicoud

In this paper, we develop a framework to characterize the impact of infrastructure investment on welfare. We suppose infrastructure investment affects the cost of shipping goods between directly connected locations and the total bilateral cost between any two locations is determined by traders optimally traveling across the complete transportation network. Our approach comprises two distinct but complementary characterizations: First, we characterize how infrastructure investment between any two connected locations decreases the total trade costs between all pairs of locations. Second, we characterize how the cost reduction between any two locations changes affects welfare. We apply these results to shipment level data between U.S. cities to calculate the welfare effects of improving each portion of the U.S. Interstate Highway System (IHS). We find very heterogeneous welfare effects of improvements to different sections of the IHS – reducing the travel time by 30 minutes on I-95 South from New York to Philadelphia would increase aggregate U.S. welfare by 0.02%, whereas reducing the travel time by 30 minutes from Seattle to Salt Lake City along I-84 East would only increase aggregate U.S. welfare by one-hundredth of that.

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