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Macroeconomic Effects from Government Purchases and Taxes

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  • Robert J. Barro
  • Charles J. Redlick

Abstract

For U.S. annual data that include WWII, the estimated multiplier for temporary defense spending is 0.4-0.5 contemporaneously and 0.6-0.7 over two years. If the change in defense spending is “permanent” (gauged by Ramey’s defense-news variable), the multipliers are higher by 0.1-0.2. The estimated multipliers are all significantly less than one and apply for given average marginal income-tax rates. We cannot estimate reliable multipliers for non-defense purchases because of the lack of good instruments. Since the defense-spending multipliers are less than one, greater spending crowds out other components of GDP, mainly investment, but also non-defense government purchases and net exports. Consumer expenditure on non-durables and services has only a small response. In a post-1950 sample, increases in average marginal income-tax rates (measured by a newly constructed time series) have significantly negative effects on GDP. When interpreted as a tax multiplier, the magnitude is around 1.1. When we hold constant marginal tax rates, we find no statistically significant effects on GDP from changes in federal tax revenue (using the Romer-Romer exogenous federal tax-revenue change as an instrument). In contrast, with revenue held constant, increases in marginal tax rates still have a statistically significant negative effect on GDP. Therefore, tax changes seem to affect GDP mainly through substitution effects, rather than wealth effects. The combination of the estimated spending and tax multipliers implies that balanced-budget multipliers for defense spending are negative.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15369.

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Date of creation: Sep 2009
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Publication status: published as “Macroeconomic Effects of Government Purchases and Taxes” (with C.J. Redlick), Quarterly Journal of Economics , February 2011.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15369

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  1. Barro, Robert J. & Sahasakul, Chaipat, 1983. "Measuring the Average Marginal Tax Rate from the Individual Income Tax," Scholarly Articles 3451293, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Valerie A. Ramey & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1999. "Costly Capital Reallocation and the Effects of Government Spending," NBER Working Papers 6283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Robert J. Barro & Chaipat Sahasakul, 1983. "Average Marginal Tax Rates from Social Security and the Individual Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 1214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rotemberg, Julio J & Woodford, Michael, 1992. "Oligopolistic Pricing and the Effects of Aggregate Demand on Economic Activity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1153-1207, December.
  6. Robert J. Barro, 1980. "Output Effects of Government Purchases," NBER Working Papers 0432, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. S. Rao Aiyagari & Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 2002. "Optimal Taxation without State-Contingent Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1220-1254, December.
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