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Balanced Budget Rules and Fiscal Outcomes: Evidence from Historical Constitutions

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  • Zareh Asatryan
  • César Castellón
  • Thomas Stratmann

Abstract

This paper studies the long-run fiscal consequences of balanced budget rules (BBR) that are enshrined in a country’s constitution. Using historical data dating back to the 19th century and applying a difference-in-difference approach we find that the introduction of a constitutional-BBR reduces government debt-to-GDP and expenditure-to-GDP ratios, on average, by around 11 and 3 percentage points, respectively. We do not find evidence that BBRs also affect tax revenues. Our analysis demonstrates that such rules reduce the probability of experiencing a debt crisis, and that the effective enforcement of BBRs can be conditional on the quality of democratic institutions. In addition, we implement an instrumental variable approach by instrumenting the probability of having budget rules on de jure constraints on changing the constitution. This and other tests suggest that the relations we find are largely causal going from BBRs to fiscal outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Zareh Asatryan & César Castellón & Thomas Stratmann, 2016. "Balanced Budget Rules and Fiscal Outcomes: Evidence from Historical Constitutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 5893, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5893
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    8. Clemens Fuest & Klaus Gründler & Niklas Potrafke & Marcel Fratzscher & Alexander Kriwoluzky & Claus Michelsen & Michael Hüther & Peter Bofinger & Lars P. Feld & Wolf Heinrich Reuter, 2019. "Schuldenbremse — Investitionshemmnis oder Vorbild für Europa? [Debt Brake — Investment Barrier or Role Model for Europe?]," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 99(5), pages 307-329, May.
    9. Florian Dorn & Stefanie Gaebler & Felix Roesel, 2021. "Ineffective fiscal rules? The effect of public sector accounting standards on budgets, efficiency, and accountability," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 186(3), pages 387-412, March.
    10. Etienne Farvaque & Hira Iqbal & Nicolas Ooghe, 2020. "Health politics? Determinants of US states’ reactions to COVID-19," Post-Print hal-03128875, HAL.
    11. Hansen, Daniel, 2020. "The effectiveness of fiscal institutions: International financial flogging or domestic constraint?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    12. Klaus Gründler & Niklas Potrafke, 2020. "Fiscal Rules: Historical, Modern, and Sub-National Growth Effects," CESifo Working Paper Series 8305, CESifo.
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    14. Benny Geys & Rune J. Sørensen, 2020. "Administrative Delegation of Budgetary Powers and Fiscal Performance," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(4), pages 477-499, November.
    15. Ardanaz, Martín & Cavallo, Eduardo & Izquierdo, Alejandro & Puig, Jorge, 2021. "Growth-friendly fiscal rules? Safeguarding public investment from budget cuts through fiscal rule design," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 111(C).
    16. Attahir Babaji Abubakar, 2020. "Does fiscal tightening (loosening) reduce public debt?," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 32(4), pages 528-539, December.
    17. Bram Gootjes & Jakob de Haan & Richard Jong-A-Pin, 2019. "Do fiscal rules constrain political budget cycles?," DNB Working Papers 634, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    18. Yue Dong & Dipanwita Sarkar & Jayanta Sarkar, 2021. "Decentralization and health resource allocation: Quasi-experimental evidence from China," QuBE Working Papers 060, QUT Business School.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic effects of constitutions; fiscal rules; historical public finances; sovereign debt crises;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General
    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

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