IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

The futile quest for a grand explanation of long-run government expenditure

  • Durevall, Dick
  • Henrekson, Magnus

This paper carries out a critical reappraisal of the two contending theories purporting to explain long-run government spending: Wagner's Law and different variants of the ratchet effect. We analyze data spanning from the early 19th century until the present day in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Hence, in contrast to previous studies, we evaluate the validity of Wagner's Law and the ratchet effect hypothesis over a very long time period, starting at the beginning of industrialization. Cointegration analysis is used to investigate the long-run relationships between government expenditure and GDP, focusing on sub-periods and structural breaks. Moreover, we test the ratchet effect hypothesis by estimating models which allow for asymmetric adjustment. According to our main results, Wagner's Law does not hold in the long run, although the data are consistent with Wagner's Law between roughly 1860 and the mid 1970s. This can be traced to the formation of the modern public sector, including the introduction of public education, health care, and so forth. Yet Wagner's Law did not hold during the initial industrialization phase (before 1860), and in recent periods GDP only affects the government spending share when we control for population age structure. Finally, we find some evidence of asymmetric adjustment in the UK, particularly in the post-WWII period. However, the ratchet effect is not a general cause of the growth of government spending.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004727271100020X
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 95 (2011)
Issue (Month): 7 ()
Pages: 708-722

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:7:p:708-722
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "Why Is Fiscal Policy Often Procyclical?," Working Papers 297, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  2. Castle, Jennifer L. & Hendry, David F., 2009. "The long-run determinants of UK wages, 1860-2004," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 5-28, March.
  3. Allan Meltzer & Scott Richard, 1983. "Tests of a rational theory of the size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 403-418, January.
  4. Rodrik, Dani, 1996. "Why do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1388, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Michael Bergman & Stefan Gerlach & Lars Jonung, 1992. "External influences in Nordic business cycles, 1870–1988," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 1-22, February.
  6. William Easterly & Sergio Rebelo, 1993. "Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 4499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Lamartina, Serena & Zaghini, Andrea, 2008. "Increasing public expenditures: Wagner's law in OECD countries," CFS Working Paper Series 2008/13, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  8. Zvi Hercowitz & Michel Strawczynski, 2004. "Cyclical Ratcheting in Government Spending: Evidence from the OECD," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 353-361, February.
  9. Ying-Foon Chow & John Cotsomitis & Andy Kwan, 2002. "Multivariate cointegration and causality tests of Wagner's hypothesis: evidence from the UK," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(13), pages 1671-1677.
  10. Bagala Biswal & Urvashi Dhawan & Hooi-Yean Lee, 1999. "Testing Wagner versus Keynes using disaggregated public expenditure data for Canada," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(10), pages 1283-1291.
  11. Michael Gavin & Roberto Perotti, 1997. "Fiscal Policy in Latin America," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 11-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hindriks, Jean & Myles, Gareth D., 2013. "Intermediate Public Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262018691, June.
  13. Lindbeck, Assar, 1976. "Stabilization Policy in Open Economies with Endogenous Politicians," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 1-19, May.
  14. Gregory, A.W. & Hansen, B.E., 1992. "Residual-Based Tests for Cointegration in Models with Regime Shifts," RCER Working Papers 335, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  15. Andreas Bergh & Martin Karlsson, 2010. "Government size and growth: Accounting for economic freedom and globalization," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 142(1), pages 195-213, January.
  16. Englund, P. & Persson, T. & Svensson, L.E.O., 1991. "Swedish Business Cycles : 1861-1988," RCER Working Papers 275a, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  17. Lindert, Peter H., 1996. "What Limits Social Spending?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-34, January.
  18. Crafts, Nick, 1991. "Reversing Relative Economic Decline? The 1980s in Historical Perspective," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(3), pages 81-98, Autumn.
  19. Kristov, Lorenzo & Lindert, Peter & McClelland, Robert, 1992. "Pressure groups and redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 135-163, July.
  20. Goff, Brian, 1998. " Persistence in Government Spending Fluctuations: New Evidence on the Displacement Effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 97(1-2), pages 141-57, October.
  21. North, Douglass C & Wallis, John Joseph, 1982. "American Government Expenditures: A Historical Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 336-40, May.
  22. Neil R. Ericsson & James G. MacKinnon, 2002. "Distributions of error correction tests for cointegration," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 5(2), pages 285-318, 06.
  23. Folster, Stefan, 1997. "Social Insurance Based on Personal Savings Accounts: A Possible Reform Strategy for Overburdened Welfare States," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 253-58.
  24. Lindert Peter H., 1994. "The Rise of Social Spending, 1880-1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-37, January.
  25. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1998. "European Integration and the Future of the Welfare State," CEPR Discussion Papers 1871, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  26. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
  27. Ram, Rati, 2009. "Openness, country size, and government size: Additional evidence from a large cross-country panel," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 213-218, February.
  28. Assar Lindbeck, 1997. "The Swedish Experiment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1273-1319, September.
  29. Michas, Nicholas A, 1975. "Wagner's Law of Public Expenditures: What Is the Appropriate Measurement for a Valid Test?," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 30(1), pages 77-85.
  30. Alan T. Peacock & Jack Wiseman, 1961. "The Growth of Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number peac61-1.
  31. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-72, June.
  32. Thomsson, Kaj, 2010. "Public and Private Welfare State Institutions: A Formal Theory of American Exceptionalism," Working Paper Series 822, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  33. Bohl, Martin T, 1996. "Some International Evidence on Wagner's Law," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 51(2), pages 185-200.
  34. Lane, Philip R., 2003. "The cyclical behaviour of fiscal policy: evidence from the OECD," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2661-2675, December.
  35. Santos, Carlos, 2008. "Impulse saturation break tests," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 136-143, February.
  36. Emmanuel Ziramba, 2008. "Wagner'S Law: An Econometric Test For South Africa, 1960-2006," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(4), pages 596-606, December.
  37. Andreas Bergh, 2005. "On Inter- and Intra-Individual Redistribution of the Welfare State," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(s1), pages 984-995.
  38. Henrekson, Magnus, 1990. "The Peacock and Wiseman displacement effect : A reappraisal and a new test," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 245-260, October.
  39. Kevin D. Hoover & Stephen J. Perez, 1999. "Data mining reconsidered: encompassing and the general-to-specific approach to specification search," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 2(2), pages 167-191.
  40. Ghate, Chetan & Zak, Paul J., 2002. "Growth of government and the politics of fiscal policy," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 435-455, December.
  41. Oxley, Les, 1994. "Cointegration, Causality and Wagner's Law: A Test for Britain 1870-1913," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 41(3), pages 286-98, August.
  42. Biehl, Dieter, 1998. "Wagner's Law: An Introduction to and a Translation of the Last Version of Adolph Wagner's text of 1911," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 53(1), pages 102-11.
  43. Akitoby, Bernardin & Clements, Benedict & Gupta, Sanjeev & Inchauste, Gabriela, 2006. "Public spending, voracity, and Wagner's law in developing countries," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 908-924, December.
  44. Randall Holcombe, 2005. "Government growth in the twenty-first century," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 95-114, July.
  45. Cameron A. Shelton, 2007. "The Size and Composition of Government Expenditure," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2007-002, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
  46. Henrekson, Magnus, 1993. "Wagner's Law--A Spurious Relationship?," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(3), pages 406-15.
  47. Talvi, Ernesto & Vegh, Carlos A., 2005. "Tax base variability and procyclical fiscal policy in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 156-190, October.
  48. Anisul Islam, 2001. "Wagner's law revisited: cointegration and exogeneity tests for the USA," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(8), pages 509-515.
  49. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521821759 is not listed on IDEAS
  50. Shelton, Cameron A., 2007. "The size and composition of government expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2230-2260, December.
  51. Engle, Robert F & Granger, Clive W J, 1987. "Co-integration and Error Correction: Representation, Estimation, and Testing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 251-76, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:7:p:708-722. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.