Because federal infrastructure spending largely takes the form of grants to state governments, the macroeconomic impact of such packages depends on the share of federal grants that “passes through” to actual infrastructure spending done by states. A low degree of pass-through would tend to mute the economic impact from federal grants, reflecting a crowd-out effect on state spending. We first revisit Knight’s (2002) influential finding of near-zero pass-through (perfect crowd out) of federal highway grants. That result is found to be specification-sensitive and is reversed completely in a longer sample, with estimates implying dollar-for-dollar pass-through of grants to spending. We then extend the analysis to allow for dynamics. We find a contemporaneous pass-through effect of about 1 and a longer-run cumulative effect of around 1.3. In the parlance of public finance, the flypaper effect is strong.
Wilson, Daniel J., and Sylvain Leduc. 2022. “The Road of Federal Infrastructure Spending Passes Through the States,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2022-03. Available at https://doi.org/10.24148/wp2022-03