Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Myung Jin, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Elsie Harper-Anderson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Richard Huff, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Bruce McDonald, Ph.D.


States across the country focus intensely on creating jobs, catalyzing capital investment, and stimulating economic output. They pursue different strategies, mixing and matching a variety of tactics in the pursuit of their economic objectives. While scholars have studied the relationship between economic development tactics and economic growth or business climate and economic growth, none to my knowledge have studied the impact of economic development efforts on economic outcomes while accounting for a state’s business climate.

I found economic development spending to be negatively associated with employment growth (other measures, real gross state product and per capita income growth, were not statistically significant), and most steeply negative in states whose business climate was rated highly by the pro-business Tax Foundation. I tested three other conceptualizations of business climate and found mixed, somewhat nuanced results. I also found only supply-side spending, not demand-side, to have a statistically significant relationship with growth. Last, in line with previous research, I found states do not appear to pursue any distinct economic development strategy.

States focus on creating the conditions ripe for economic growth and development but seem to use the wrong (or at least, suboptimal) tools to achieve their desired outcomes. With nearly $5B spent on economic development operations and up to $80B in state and local incentives awarded each year, taxpayers deserve more effective practices and policies. I hope this dissertation can encourage deeper partnership between policymakers, practitioners, and scholars on improving the practice and decision-making processes inherent to state and local economic development.


© Sean A. Brazier

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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Monday, November 24, 2025