Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers in Economics,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics

No 722: Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision

Carl-Johan Dalgaard , Nicolai Kaarsen , Ola Olsson () and Pablo Selaya
Additional contact information
Carl-Johan Dalgaard: University of Copenhagen, CAGE (Warwick) and CEPR (London)
Nicolai Kaarsen: Danish Economic Council
Ola Olsson: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Pablo Selaya: University of Copenhagen

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 (117 CE). We find a remarkable pattern of persistence showing that greater Roman road density goes along with (a) greater modern road density, (b) greater settlement for-mation 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.

Keywords: Roman roads; Roman Empire; public goods; infrastructure; persistence

JEL-codes: H41; O40

50 pages, February 2018

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