Financing Urban Infrastructure: Knowns, Unknowns, and a Way Forward

33 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2015

Date Written: April 2015


Improved urban infrastructure is widely believed to be essential in facilitating economic growth and in improving the lives of urban dwellers, both in developed and in developing countries. This paper focuses on several dimensions of urban infrastructure finance: finance for major infrastructure improvements in major economic centers, finance for expansion of basic municipal services in secondary cities and towns, and intergovernmental systems for financing investments with impacts beyond jurisdictional limits. It reviews what is “known” about current practices in these areas, using international evidence and case studies and summarizing international best practices. It also indicates areas in which knowledge gaps remain. Despite these “unknowns,” there are avenues by which our understanding of infrastructure schemes can be enhanced, and some suggestions for a research agenda on financing urban infrastructure are offered in the concluding section.

Keywords: Fiscal federalism, Infrastructure, Subsidiarity principle

Suggested Citation

Alm, James, Financing Urban Infrastructure: Knowns, Unknowns, and a Way Forward (April 2015). Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol. 29, Issue 2, pp. 230-262, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

James Alm (Contact Author)

Tulane University ( email )

United States
5048628344 (Phone)

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