Construction Is Holding Back the Economy

But there’s a big problem with the U.S. construction industry — it costs way too much to build things.

Productivity in construction has stagnated throughout much of the world. But in the U.S. it has done particularly poorly. In terms of value added per worker, construction-industry productivity has fallen by about a third since 1970.

. . . If these numbers are accurate, it would be an epic disaster. If productivity declined that much throughout the economy, it would bring U.S. living standards down to those of Spain.

. . . This is having a big effect on living standards in the U.S. With road repair prohibitively expensive, whole towns can potentially wither and die as they get cut off from the rest of the economy. Expensive and inefficient trains make it harder for American cities to function, leaving poor people stranded at the edges of town. A shortage of new housing can drive up rents, especially in big cities, squeezing the poor and middle class and preventing cities from achieving

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