New Estimates of Federal Government Tangible Capital and Net Investment
Michael J. Boskin, Marc S. Robinson, John M. Roberts
NBER Working Paper No. 1774
Government capital formation raises a number of issues important to national economic well-being, yet the U.S., unlike most advanced countries, does not account for capital in its formal budget documents. We estimate depreciation of government capital using a methodology developed by Hulten and Wykoff which is based on used asset price data. We estimate a federal government net nonresidential capital stock of over $800 billion in 1984, more than 20% higher than estimated by the BEA. We also find much larger net federal investment since World War II than the BEA. The behavior of military and civilian structures and equipment is also examined.We analyze the potential importance of these results for measuring the net national savings rate, national wealth, the trend in government capital formation relative to private capital formation, and the relationship between net investment and deficits.