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

Research output: Working paperResearch

Carl-Johan Lars Dalgaard, Nicolai Kaarsen, Ola Olsson, Pablo Selaya

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.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
SeriesCEPR Discussion Paper Series

ID: 195128236