Airports and Urban Growth: Evidence from a Quasi-Natural Policy Experiment
While significant work has been done to examine the determinants of regional development, there is little evidence on the contribution of air services toward this outcome. This paper exploits the unexpected market changes induced by the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act to bring new evidence on the link between airline traffic and local economic growth. Using data for almost 300 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) over a two decade time period centered around the policy change, we exploit time variation in long-run growth rates to identify the effects of airline traffic on population, income and employment growth. Our results suggest that air service has a significant positive effect on regional growth, with the magnitude of the effects differing by MSA size and industrial specialization.
We thank James Harrigan, David Hummels, Jason Lindo, Alex Vrtiska, Glen Waddell and Wes Wilson for helpful discussions, and Mitchell Johnson for excellent research assistance. Any remaining errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.