The Economics of a Targeted Economic Development Subsidy
62 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 7, 2020
In an effort to spur economic growth and to burnish their job-creation bona fides, policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels often dispense targeted economic development subsidies. These selective incentives include targeted tax relief, targeted regulatory relief, cash subsidies, and in-kind donations of land and other valuable goods and services. The weight of economic theory suggests that these subsidies do not work and may even depress economic activity. In this paper, we review the economic case for and against targeted economic development subsidies, using Wisconsin’s $1.2 billion to $3.6 billion subsidy to Foxconn to illustrate these points. We show that under realistic scenarios the subsidy may depress state economic activity by tens of billions of dollars over the next 15 years.
Keywords: targeted economic development subsidies, economic development, regional growth, job growth, incentives, subsidies, rent-seeking
JEL Classification: H71, O1, R11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation