This chapter examines the effects that airports have had on economic development in cities from 1950 to 2010. It uses a novel dataset consisting of previously unexploited data on the origins and history of the aviation system in the United States. Applying the method of synthetic controls to a set of medium and small airports, I examine both the overall impacts and the heterogeneity within the outcomes of various airports. Then, I use regression analysis to determine key factors differentiating successful airports from less successful ones, as it pertains particularly to population and employment growth. I find that, first, on average, cities have benefited from airports over this period. Airports, overall, provided a causal contribution of 0.2– 0.6% per year on population and employment growth over the time period. Second, I show that city-level factors contributing to airport success include: (1) closer proximity to a major research university, (2) a capital city location, and (3) climate factors, particularly higher January mean temperatures and/or hours of sunshine. City size is a consideration as well; cities in larger metropolitan areas, with larger shares of employment in nontradables in the 1950s, were also better positioned to reap the benefits that airports provided on city growth. Significant differences were not found across regions, airport governance structures, or other factors.
McGraw, M. (2017), "The Heterogeneous Impact of Airports on Population and Employment Growth in Cities
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