The Evolving and Complementary Impacts of Transportation Infrastructures on Population and Employment Change in the United States, 1970–2010

  • Bishal Bhakta Kasu
  • Guangqing Chi
Original Research


Transportation infrastructures play an essential role in influencing population and employment change. While railroads, highways, and airports were constructed in different time periods, now they complement each other in terms of providing accessibility. This study uses county-level data to examine the impacts of the three forms of transportation infrastructure on population and employment change in the continental United States from 1970 to 2010. The findings suggest that transportation infrastructures play evolving but complementary roles in affecting population and employment change during the study period: railroads act as a distributive factor, highways take a facilitator role, and airports behave like growth poles. Diversification of the roles indicates that transportation infrastructures have evolved from a pure growth factor to an essential multifaceted development element of human society.


Transportation infrastructures Railroads Highways Airports Population change Employment change Spatial regression 



This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Award # 1541136), the U.S. Department of Transportation (Awards # DTRT12GUTC14-201307 and # DTRT12GUTC14-201308), and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Award # P2C HD041025).


  1. Agostini, C. A., & Palmucci, G. A. (2008). The anticipated capitalisation effect of a new metro line on housing prices. Fiscal studies, 29(2), 233–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akgüngör, S., Aldemir, C., Kuştepeli, Y., Gülcan, Y., & Tecim, V. (2011). The Effect of railway expansion on population in Turkey, 1856–2000. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 42(1), 135–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Mosaind, M. A., Dueker, K. J., & Strathman, J. G. (1993). Light-rail transit stations and property values: a hedonic price approach (pp. 90–94). Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board.Google Scholar
  4. Alonso, W. (1964). Location and land use toward a general theory of land rent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alvarez, E., Franch, X., & Marti-Henneberg, J. (2013). Evolution of the territorial coverage of the railway network and its influence on population growth: The case of England and Wales, 1871–1931. Historical Methods, 46(3), 175–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anselin, L. (1988). Spatial econometrics: Methods and models. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Anselin, L. (1990). Spatial dependence and spatial structural instability in applied regression analysis. Journal of Regional Science, 30(2), 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Appold, S. J., & Kasarda, J. D. (2013). The airport city phenomenon: Evidence from large US airports. Urban Studies, 50(6), 1239–1259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aschauer, D. A. (1989). Does public capital crowd out private capital? Journal of Monetary Economics, 24(2), 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Association of American Railroads. (2018). Putting technology to work: How freight rail delivers the 21st century. Retrieved August 20, 2018 from
  11. Atack, J., Haines, M. R., & Margo, R. A. (2008). Railroads and the Rise of the Factory: Evidence for the United States, 1850–70. The National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper No. 14410.Google Scholar
  12. Atack, J., & Margo, R. A. (2011). The impact of access to rail transportation on agricultural improvement: The American Midwest as a test case, 1850–1860. The Journal of Transport and Land Use, 4(2), 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Baily, M. N., & Bosworth, B. P. (2014). US manufacturing: Understanding its past and its potential future. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(1), 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Baum-Snow, N. (2007). Did Highways cause suburbanization? The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(2), 775–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boarnet, M. G. (2008). Transportation infrastructure and sustainable development: New planning approaches for urban growth. Access, 33, 27–33.Google Scholar
  16. Boarnet, M. G., & Chalermpong, S. (2002). New highways, induced travel, and urban growth patterns: A “Before and After” test. UC Berkeley: University of California Transportation Center.Google Scholar
  17. Boarnet, M. G., & Haughwout, A. F. (2000). Do highways matter? Evidence and policy implications of highways’ influence on metropolitan development. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Retrieved February 02, 2015 from
  18. Bohon, S. A., Stamps, K., & Atiles, J. H. (2008). Transportation and migrant adjustment in Georgia. Population Research and Policy Review, 27(3), 273–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Bollinger, C. R., & Ihlanfeldt, K. R. (1997). The impact of rapid rail transit on economic development: The case of Atlanta’s MARTAU. Journal of Urban Economics, 42(2), 179–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bowes, D. R., & Ihlanfeldt, K. R. (2001). Identifying the impacts of rail transit stations on residential property values. Journal of Urban Economics, 50(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Brueckner, J. K. (2003). Airline traffic and urban economic development. Urban Studies, 40(8), 1455–1469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Carmichael, G. E. (1998). An overview of the 21st century North American intermodal system. Transportation Law Journal., 25(261), 320–323.Google Scholar
  23. Chang, Y.-H., & Chang, Y.-W. (2009). Air cargo expansion and economic growth: Finding the empirical link. Journal of Air Transport Management, 15, 264–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Chatman, D. G., & Noland, R. B. (2011). Do public transport improvements increase agglomeration economies? A review of literature and an agenda for research. Transport Reviews, 31(6), 725–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Chi, G. (2010). The impacts of highway expansion on population change: An integrated spatial approach. Rural Sociology, 75(1), 58–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Chi, G. (2012). The impacts of transport accessibility on population change across rural, suburban, and urban areas: A case study of Wisconsin at sub–county levels. Urban Studies, 49(12), 2711–2731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Chi, G., & Ho, H. C. (2018). Population stress: A spatiotemporal analysis of population change and land development at the county level in the continental United States, 2000–2010. Land Use Policy, 70(1), 128–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Chi, G., & Ventura, S. J. (2011). An integrated framework of population change: Influential factors, spatial dynamics, and temporal variation. Growth and Change, 42(4), 549–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Chi, G., Voss, P. R., & Deller, S. C. (2006). Rethinking highway effects on population change. Public Works Management & Policy, 11(1), 18–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Chi, G., & Zhu, J. (2008). Spatial regression models for demographic analysis. Population Research and Policy Review, 27(1), 17–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Coffin, A. W. (2007). From roadkill to road ecology: a review of the ecological effects of roads. Journal of transport Geography, 15(5), 396–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Coffman, C., & Gregson, M. E. (1998). Railroad development and land value. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 16(2), 191–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Decker, C. S., & Flynn, D. T. (2007). The railroad's impact on land values in the Upper Great Plains at the closing of the frontier. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 40(1), 28–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Del Bo, C. F., & Florio, M. (2012). Infrastructure and growth in a spatial framework: evidence from the EU regions. European Planning Studies, 20(8), 1393–1414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Donaldson, D. (2010). Railroads of the Raj: Estimating the impact of transportation infrastructure. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Duncan, M. (2008). Comparing rail transit capitalization benefits for single-family and condominium units in San Diego, California. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2067), 120–130.Google Scholar
  37. FHA (Federal Highway Administration). (2001). Freight benefit/cost study: Compilation of the literature. AECOM team. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from
  38. Fogel, R. W. (1962). A quantitative approach to the study of railroads in American economic growth: A report of some preliminary findings. Journal of Economic History, 22(2), 163–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goetz, A. R. (1992). Air passenger transportation and growth in the United States urban system, 1950–1987. Growth and Change, 23(2), 217–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Goetz, A. R., & Sutton, C. J. (1997). The geography of deregulation in the US airline industry. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 87(2), 238–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Green, R. K. (2007). Airports and economic development. Real Estate Economics, 35(1), 91–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gregory, I. N., & Henneberg, J. M. (2010). The railways, urbanization, and local demography in England and Wales. Social Science History, 34(2), 199–228.Google Scholar
  43. Haggett, P., Frey, A. E., & Cliff, A. D. (1977). Locational analysis in human geography. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  44. Hensher, D. A., Truong, T. P., Mulley, C., & Ellison, R. (2012). Assessing the wider economy impacts of transport infrastructure investment with an illustrative application to the North-West Rail Link project in Sydney, Australia. Journal of Transport Geography, 24, 292–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Holtz-Eakin, D., & Schwartz, A. E. (1995). Spatial productivity spillovers from public infrastructure: Evidence from state highways. International Tax and Public Finance, 2(3), 459–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Irwin, M. D., & Kasarda, J. D. (1991). Air passenger linkages and employment growth in U.S. Metropolitan areas. American Sociological Review, 56(4), 524–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Israel, E., & Cohen-Blankshtain, G. (2010). Testing the decentralization effects of rail systems: Empirical findings from Israel. Transportation Research Part A, 44(7), 523–536.Google Scholar
  48. Kasarda, J. D., & Lindsay, G. (2011). Aerotropolis: The way we’ll live next. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  49. Kotavaara, O., Antikainen, H., & Rusanen, J. (2011). Population change and accessibility by road and rail networks: GIS and statistical approach to Finland 1970–2007. Journal of Transport Geography, 19(4), 926–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Levinson, D. (1998). Accessibility and the journey to work. Journal of Transport Geography, 6(1), 11–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Levinson, D. (2008a). Density and dispersion: The co–development of land use and rail in London. Journal of Economic Geography, 8(1), 55–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Levinson, D. (2008b). The orderliness hypothesis: The correlation of rail and housing development in London. The Journal of Transport History, 29(1), 98–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lichter, D. T., & Fuguitt, G. V. (1980). Demographic response to transportation innovation: The case of the interstate highway. Social Forces, 59(2), 492–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mohmand, Y. T., Wang, A., & Saeed, A. (2017). The impact of transportation infrastructure on economic growth: Empirical evidence from Pakistan. Transportation Letters, 9(2), 63–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moore, C. T., Joyce, G., Lipson, H. A., & Mayer, M. L. (1964). A Study of the Expected Economic and Social Impact of Interstate Highways in the Industrial and Commercial Trading Area of Birmingham, Alabama. Tuscaloosa, AL: Alabama Highway Research Project, Department of Marketing, School of Commerce and Business Administration, University of Alabama.Google Scholar
  56. Morillas-Torné, M., Franch Auladell, X., & Martí Henneberg, J. (2014). The railway network and the process of population concentration in Spain, 1900–2001. Revista de Historia Economica, 32(3), 351–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Morley, R. (2006). The death of American manufacturing. The Trumpet. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from
  58. Neal, Z. (2014). The devil is in the details: Differences in Air traffic networks by scale, species, and season. Social Networks, 38, 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Olaru, D., Smith, B., & Taplin, J. H. E. (2011). Residential location and transit–oriented development in a new rail corridor. Transportation Research Part A—Policy and Practice, 45(3), 219–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pagliara, F., & Papa, E. (2011). Urban rail systems investments: an analysis of the impacts on property values and residents' location. Journal of Transport Geography, 19(2), 200–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pan, H., & Zhang, M. (2008). Rail transit impacts on land use: Evidence from Shanghai, China. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2048(1), 16–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ratner, K. A., & Goetz, A. R. (2013). The reshaping of land use and urban form in denver through transit-oriented development. Cities, 30(2013), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ribot, J. C., & Peluso, N. L. (2003). A theory of access. Rural Sociology, 68(2), 153–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rodrigue, J. P. (2015). Structuring effects of rail terminals. In B. P. Y. Loo & C. Comtois (Eds.), Sustainable railway futures: Issues and challenges (pp. 29–37). Surrey and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  65. Rodrigue, J.-P., Comtois, C., & Slack, B. (2013). The geography of transport systems. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sheard, N. (2014). Airports and urban sectoral employment. Journal of Urban Economics, 80, 133–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Silva, C. (2014). Accessibility and mobility. In M. W. Garrett (Ed.), Encyclopedia of transportation: Social science and policy (pp. 6–11). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.Google Scholar
  68. United States Department of Labor. N.d. Working in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved December 13, 2016 from
  69. White, K. J. C. (2008). Sending or receiving stations? The dual influence of railroads in early 20th–century great plains settlement. Population Research Policy Review, 27(1), 89–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Rural StudiesSouth Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, Population Research Institute, and Social Science Research InstituteThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations