Did Big Government's Largesse Help the Locals? The Implications of WWII Spending for Local Economic Activity, 1939-1958
Studies of the development of local economies often point to large-scale World War II military spending as a source of long-term economic growth, even though the spending declined sharply after the demobilization. We examine the longer term impact of the temporary war spending on county economies using a variety of measures of socioeconomic activity: including per capita retail sales, the extent of manufacturing, population growth, the share of women in the work force, housing values and ownership, and per capita savings over the period 1940-1950. We find that in the longer term counties receiving more war spending per capita during the war experienced extensive growth due to increases in population but not intensive growth, as the war spending had very small impacts on per capita measures of economic activity.
This paper was revised on January 9, 2008