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The role of automatic stabilizers in the U.S. business cycle

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  • McKay, Alisdair
  • Reis, Ricardo

Abstract

Most countries have automatic rules in their tax-and-transfer systems that are partly intended to stabilize economic fluctuations. This paper measures how effective they are. We put forward a model that merges the standard incomplete-markets model of consumption and inequality with the new Keynesian model of nominal rigidities and business cycles, and that includes most of the main potential stabilizers in the U.S. data, as well as the theoretical channels by which they may work. We find that the conventional argument that stabilizing disposable income will stabilize aggregate demand plays a negligible role on the effectiveness of the stabilizers, whereas tax-and-transfer programs that affect inequality and social insurance can have a large effect on aggregate volatility. However, as currently designed, the set of stabilizers in place in the United States has barely had any effect on volatility. According to our model, expanding safety-net programs, like food stamps, has the largest potential to enhance the effectiveness of the stabilizers.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9454.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9454

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Keywords: Countercyclical fiscal policy; Fiscal multipliers; Heterogeneous agents;

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  1. Alonso-Ortiz, Jorge & Rogerson, Richard, 2010. "Taxes, transfers and employment in an incomplete markets model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(8), pages 949-958, November.
  2. Barrell, R. & Pina, A.M., 2000. "How Important are Automatic Stabilizers in Europe? A Stochastic Simulation Assessment," Economics Working Papers eco2000/2, European University Institute.
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Cited by:
  1. Giovanni Dosi & Giorgio Fagiolo & Mauro Napoletano & Andrea Roventini & Tania Treibich, 2014. "Fiscal and Monetary Policies in Complex Evolving Economies," Working Papers 05/2014, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
  2. Makoto Nakajima, 2013. "Monetary Policy with Heterogeneous Agents," 2013 Meeting Papers 356, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Xavier Ragot & Edouard Challe, 2011. "Precautionary Saving over the Business Cycle," 2011 Meeting Papers 517, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Peter Ganong & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," NBER Working Papers 19363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christopher Reicher, 2013. "A set of estimated fiscal rules for a cross-section of countries: Stabilization and consolidation through which instruments?," Kiel Working Papers 1850, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  6. Anmol Bhandari & David Evans & Mikhail Golosov & Thomas J. Sargent, 2013. "Taxes, Debts, and Redistributions with Aggregate Shocks," NBER Working Papers 19470, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Olivier J. Blanchard & Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Paolo Mauro, 2013. "Rethinking Macro Policy II," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 13/003, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Artheya, Kartik & Owens, Andrew & Schwartzman, Felipe, 2014. "Does Redistribution Increase Output? The Centrality of Labor Supply," Working Paper 14-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  9. Ganong, Peter & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," Working Paper Series rwp13-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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