The Effect of Transport Infrastructure on India’s Urban and Rural Development

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October 2017
Simon Alder, Mark Roberts, Meenu Tewari
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, World Bank Group, GGKP Annual Conference
Alder_The Effect of Transport Infrastructure on India’s Urban and Rural Development

This paper uses a two-sector domestic trade model to study urban and rural development in India over the past decade. Based on a version of the market access approach proposed by Donaldson and Hornbeck (2016), the authors derive general equilibrium relationships between a sector’s income and it’s access to markets in both the urban and rural sectors. Satellite data are used to measure urban and rural growth in 5,900 sub-districts where areas are assigned to either urban or rural sectors based on a threshold for urban light intensity. In order to estimate the relationship between income and market access, the authors exploit changes in transportation infrastructure that have led to reductions in travel times on the computed shortest path. The implied reduction in trade costs generates variation in the market access measures. This time variation allows to estimate the elasticity of income in each sector with respect to market access in the own and the other sector. The results suggest that both urban and rural market access are each individually strongly correlated with income, but they are empirically difficult to disentangle when estimating jointly. The authors then study the role of various complementary factors that potentially play different roles for urban and rural production and could imply heterogeneous effects of transport infrastructure. Natural resources like groundwater, rainfall, temperature, and the availability of crop land, as well as measures for human capital are considered. The evidence on interaction effects is mixed and mostly suggests that the effect of market access is relatively stable.