Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision

Author(s): Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Nicolai Kaarsen, Ola Olsson and Pablo Selaya

Publication Date: February 2018

Keyword(s): infrastructure, Persistence, Public Goods, Roman Empire and Roman roads

Programme Area(s): Macroeconomics and Growth

Abstract: How persistent is public goods provision in a comparative perspective? We explore the link between infrastructure investments made during antiquity and the presence of infrastructure today, as well as the link between early infrastructure and economic activity both in the past and in the present, across the entire area under dominion of the Roman Empire at the zenith of its geographical extension. We find a remarkable pattern of persistence showing that greater Roman road density goes along with (a) greater modern road density, (b) greater settlement formation in 500 CE, and (c) greater economic activity in 2010. Interestingly, however, the degree of persistence in road density and the link between early road density and contemporary economic development is weakened to the point of insignificance in areas where the use of wheeled vehicles was abandoned from the first millennium CE until the late modern period. Taken at face value, our results suggest that infrastructure may be one important channel through which persistence in comparative development comes about.

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Bibliographic Reference

Dalgaard, C, Kaarsen, N, Olsson, O and Selaya, P. 2018. 'Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.