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Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation of the Evidence

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  • Bergh, Andreas

    ()
    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Henrekson, Magnus

    ()
    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Abstract

The literature on the relationship between the size of government and economic growth is full of seemingly contradictory findings. This conflict is largely explained by variations in definitions and the countries studied. An alternative approach—of limiting the focus to studies of the relationship in rich countries, measuring government size as total taxes or total expenditure relative to GDP and relying on panel data estimations with variation over time—reveals a more consistent picture. The most recent studies find a significant negative correlation: An increase in government size by 10 percentage points is associated with a 0.5 to 1 percent lower annual growth rate. We discuss efforts to make sense of this correlation, and note several pitfalls involved in giving it a causal interpretation. Against this background, we discuss two explanations of why several countries with high taxes seem able to enjoy above average growth: (i) that countries with higher social trust levels are able to develop larger government sectors without harming the economy, and (ii) that countries with large governments compensate for high taxes and spending by implementing market-friendly policies in other areas. Both explanations are supported by current research.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 858.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 03 Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as Bergh, Andreas and Magnus Henrekson, 'Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation of the Evidence' in Journal of Economic Surveys, 2011, pages 872-897.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0858

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Keywords: Government size; Government expenditure; Economic growth; Economic freedom; Globalization; Taxation; Cross-country regressions;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ant�nio Afonso & Jo�o Tovar Jalles, 2013. "Do fiscal rules matter for growth?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(1), pages 34-40, January.
  2. Enrico Colombatto, 2012. "Fiscal Harmonization: Credible Goal or Trojan Horse?," Working papers 010, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.
  3. Martin Rode & Sebastian Coll, 2012. "Economic freedom and growth. Which policies matter the most?," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 95-133, June.
  4. Brehm, Stefan, 2013. "Fiscal Incentives, Public Spending, and Productivity – County-Level Evidence from a Chinese Province," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 92-103.
  5. Escobari Diego & Mollick André Varella, 2013. "Output growth and unexpected government expenditures," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 33, September.
  6. Alexander Radygin & Revold Entov, 2014. "The Fundamental Privatization Theorem: Ideology, Evolution, Practice," Working Papers 0087, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, revised 2014.
  7. François Facchini & Mickaël Melki, 2011. "Optimal government size and economic growth in France (1871-2008) : An explanation by the State and market failures," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00654363, HAL.
  8. Hans-Werner Sinn & Niklas Potrafke, 2012. "Zur Debatte »Sparen oder Wachstum«," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 65(10), pages 07-08, 05.
  9. Abbi M Kedir & Nor Yasmin Mhd Bani, 2012. "Panel Data Evidence on the Role of Education in the Growth-Volatility Relationship," Discussion Papers in Economics 12/04, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  10. Daniel Oto-Peralías & Diego Romero-Ávila, 2013. "Tracing the Link between Government Size and Growth: The Role of Public Sector Quality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 229-255, 05.

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