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The Role of Publicly Provided Electricity in Economic Development: The Experience of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1929–1955

  • Carl Kitchens (a1)

I study the impacts of one of the largest regional development projects in American History, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), on a variety of economic outcomes. The TVA has been noted as an example of how to develop a region's water power potential to stimulate growth. In what follows, I show using a county-level panel dataset, that the TVA had little impact on economic growth in the South. I attribute these results to the institutional history of the TVA and the contractual agreements it signed in an effort to expand its service territory.

“…as a pebble dropped in a pond causes ripples to flow outward to the surrounding shores, the influence of TVA'slow rates flows outward to surrounding areas…”

TVA's Influence on Electric Rates 1965

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I would like to thank Jean-Laurent Rosenthal and two anonymous referees for their comments that substantially improved this article. I would also like to thank Price Fishback, Jonah Gelbach, Paul Rhode, Taylor Jaworski, Briggs Depew, Theresa Gutberlet, Todd Sorenson, and Manuela Angelucci, participants at the Southern Economic Association Meetings 2011, and Stanford Institute of Theoretical Economics 2012 for helpful comments. Financial support for this project came from the Economic History Association Travel Grant 2010 and the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant Number 1022756.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Timothy Besley , Torsten Persson , and Daniel M. Sturm . “Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the U.S.The Review of Economic Studies 77, no. 4 (2010): 1329–52.

Taryn Dinkelman . “The Effects of Rural Electrification on Employment: New Evidence from South Africa.The American Economic Review 101, no. 7 (2011): 30783108.

Esther Duflo , and Rohini Pande . “Dams.The Quarterly Journal of Economics 122, no. 2 (2007): 601–46.

Price V. Fishback , William C. Horrace , and Shawn Kantor . “Did New Deal Grant Programs Stimulate Local Economies? A Study of Federal Grants and Retail Sales During the Great Depression.The Journal of Economic History 65, no. 1 (2005): 3671.

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Marcelo Moriera . “A Conditional Likelihood Ratio Test for Structural Models.Econometrica 71, no. 4 (2003): 1027–48.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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