Summary of If You Build It

A Guide to the Economics of Infrastructure Investment

The Hamilton Project,

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If You Build It summary
US infrastructure investments require impartial prioritization and financial control.


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The need for infrastructure improvements in the United States, where investment has been falling for decades, has never been greater. According to a 2013 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, it would take an estimated $3.6 trillion to bring America’s transportation, utilities and flood-control structures back to acceptable levels of safety and reliability. This astute report from policy experts Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn and Greg Nantz offers a systematic approach to prioritizing, selecting and funding projects. The authors emphasize the importance of financial responsibility and impartial decision making in tackling this enormous undertaking. getAbstract recommends this timely study to officials charged with the oversight of infrastructure spending.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the lack of US infrastructure investment affects the economy,
  • What criteria decision makers should consider in selecting projects and
  • What funding options are available to government officials.


Between 1980 and 2015, US public infrastructure investment fell from 1.5% to 0.6% of GDP. Since 2002, spending slowed by more than half, resulting in deferred maintenance and degradation of roads, bridges, transportation, schools, water and wastewater facilities, dams, hazardous-waste remediation, and...
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About the Authors

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is the director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, where Ryan Nunn is a policy director and Greg Nantz is a research analyst.

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