The Arsenal of Democracy: Production and Politics During WWII

Paul W. Rhode, James M. Snyder, Jr., Koleman Strumpf

NBER Working Paper No. 24158
Issued in December 2017
NBER Program(s):Political Economy

We study the geographic distribution of military supply contracts during World War II. This is a unique case, since over $3 trillion current day dollars was spent, and there were concerns that the country's future hinged on the war outcome. We find robust evidence consistent with the hypothesis that economic factors dominated the allocation of supply contracts, and that political factors---or at least winning the 1944 presidential election---were at best of secondary importance. General industrial capacity in 1939, as well as specialized industrial capacity for aircraft production, are strong predictors of contract spending across states. On the other hand, electoral college pivot probabilities are at best weak predictors of contract spending, and under the most plausible assumptions they are essentially unrelated to spending. This is true not only for total contract spending over the entire period 1940-1944, but also for shorter periods leading up to the election in November 1944, as well as for new facilities spending. That is, we find no evidence of an electoral cycle in the distribution of funds.

download in pdf format
   (1890 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24158

Published: Paul W. Rhode & James M. Snyder, Jr. & Koleman Strumpf, 2018. "The arsenal of democracy: Production and politics during WWII," Journal of Public Economics, vol 166, pages 145-161. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Iyigun, Nunn, and Qian w24066 The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900
Korinek and Stiglitz w24174 Artificial Intelligence and Its Implications for Income Distribution and Unemployment
Acemoglu, De Feo, and De Luca w24115 Weak States: Causes and Consequences of the Sicilian Mafia
Bordo w24154 An Historical Perspective on the Quest for Financial Stability and the Monetary Policy Regime
Jordà, Knoll, Kuvshinov, Schularick, and Taylor w24112 The Rate of Return on Everything, 1870–2015
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us