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What the Government Purchases Multiplier Actually Multiplied in the 2009 Stimulus Package

In: Government Policies and the Delayed Economic Recovery


  • John F. Cogan
  • John B. Taylor


Much of the recent economic debate about the impact of stimulus packages has focused on the size of the crucial government purchases multiplier. But equally crucial is the size of the government purchases multiplicand--the change in government purchases of goods and services that the multiplier actually multiplies. Using new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and considering developments at both the federal and the state and local level, we find that the government purchases multiplicand through the 2nd quarter of 2010 has been only 2 percent of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. This increase in government purchases has occurred mainly at the federal level. While states and localities received substantial grants under ARRA, state and local governments have not increased their purchases of goods and services. Instead they reduced borrowing and increased transfer payments. These findings explain why, regardless of the size of a government purchases multiplier, changes in government purchases have had no material effect on the growth of GDP since the time ARRA was enacted. The implication is not that ARRA has been too small, but rather that it failed to increase government consumption expenditures and infrastructure spending as many had predicted from such a large package. A consideration of the counterfactual event that there had not been an ARRA supports the hypothesis that state and local government borrowing would have been higher and purchases would have been about the same in the absence of ARRA.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Cogan & John B. Taylor, 2012. "What the Government Purchases Multiplier Actually Multiplied in the 2009 Stimulus Package," Book Chapters,in: Lee E. Ohanian & John B. Taylor & Ian J. Wright (ed.), Government Policies and the Delayed Economic Recovery, chapter 5 Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hoo:bookch:6-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thorsten Drautzburg & Harald Uhlig, 2015. "Fiscal Stimulus and Distortionary Taxation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(4), pages 894-920, October.
    2. Cogan, John F. & Cwik, Tobias & Taylor, John B. & Wieland, Volker, 2010. "New Keynesian versus old Keynesian government spending multipliers," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 281-295, March.
    3. Robert E. Hall, 2009. "By How Much Does GDP Rise If the Government Buys More Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 183-249.
    4. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2011. "What Fiscal Policy is Effective at Zero Interest Rates?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2010, Volume 25, pages 59-112 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Byron Gangnes, 2010. "The Employment Effects of Fiscal Policy: How Costly are ARRA Jobs?," Working Papers 2010-16, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
    2. Blomquist, Johan & Nordin, Martin, 2017. "Do the CAP subsidies increase employment in Sweden? estimating the effects of government transfers using an exogenous change in the CAP," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 13-24.
    3. Lawrence Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 2011. "When Is the Government Spending Multiplier Large?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 78-121.
    4. Feiveson, Laura, 2015. "General revenue sharing and public sector unions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 28-45.
    5. Sylvain Leduc & Daniel Wilson, 2013. "Roads to Prosperity or Bridges to Nowhere? Theory and Evidence on the Impact of Public Infrastructure Investment," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 89-142.
    6. Oh, Hyunseung & Reis, Ricardo, 2012. "Targeted transfers and the fiscal response to the great recession," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(S), pages 50-64.
    7. Tobias Cwik & Volker Wieland, 2011. "Keynesian government spending multipliers and spillovers in the euro area," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 26(67), pages 493-549, July.
    8. repec:eee:eecrev:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:525-543 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Volker Wieland, 2012. "Model comparison and robustness: a proposal for policy analysis after the financial crisis," Chapters,in: What’s Right with Macroeconomics?, chapter 2, pages 33-67 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. William D. Dupor, 2013. "Creating jobs via the 2009 recovery act: state medicaid grants compared to broadly-directed spending," Working Papers 2013-035, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    11. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:2:p:253-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Sylvain Leduc & Daniel Wilson, 2017. "Are State Governments Roadblocks to Federal Stimulus? Evidence on the Flypaper Effect of Highway Grants in the 2009 Recovery Act," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 253-292, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations


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