In, “The Arsenal of Democracy: Production and Politics During WWII,” Paul Rhode (University of Michigan), James Snyder (Harvard University), and Koleman Strumpf (Wake Forest University) examine spending during World War Two. They found that “supply contracts during WWII were awarded to states that had high industrial capacity already in place in 1939,” and were not awarded to states simply because they may be important for the 1944 presidential election. In addition to these findings, the authors outline possible avenues to further explore WWII spending as well as contemporary major defense projects. The abstract and link to the study can be found below.
We study the geographic distribution of military supply contracts during World War II. This is a unique case, since over $3 trillion current day dollars was spent, and there were concerns that the country’s future hinged on the war outcome. We find robust evidence consistent with the hypothesis that economic factors dominated the allocation of supply contracts, and that political factors—or at least winning the 1944 presidential election—were at best of secondary importance. General industrial capacity in 1939, as well as specialized industrial capacity for aircraft production, are strong predictors of contract spending across states. On the other hand, electoral college pivot probabilities are at best weak predictors of contract spending, and under the most plausible assumptions they are essentially unrelated to spending. This is true not only for total spending over the entire period 1940-1944, but also for shorter periods leading up to the election in November 1944. That is, we find no evidence of an electoral cycle in the distribution of funds.