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Beliefs about Public Debt and the Demand for Government Spending

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  • Christopher Roth
  • Sonja Settele
  • Johannes Wohlfart

Abstract

We examine how beliefs about the debt-to-GDP ratio affect people's attitudes towards government spending and taxation. Using representative samples of the US population, we run a series of experiments in which we provide half of our respondents with information about the debt-to-GDP ratio in the US. Based on a total of more than 4,000 respondents, we find that most people underestimate the debt-to-GDP ratio and reduce their support for government spending once they learn about the actual amount of debt, but do not substantially alter their attitudes towards taxation. The treatment effects seem to operate through changes in expectations about fiscal sustainability and persist in a four-week follow-up.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Roth & Sonja Settele & Johannes Wohlfart, 2020. "Beliefs about Public Debt and the Demand for Government Spending," CESifo Working Paper Series 8087, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8087
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    Cited by:

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    2. Markus Eller & Branimir Jovanovic & Thomas Scheiber, 2021. "What do people in CESEE think about public debt?," Focus on European Economic Integration, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue Q3/21, pages 35-58.
    3. Mishagina, Natalia & Montmarquette, Claude, 2021. "The role of beliefs in supporting economic policies: The case of the minimum wage," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 1059-1087.
    4. Andreoli, Francesco & Olivera, Javier, 2020. "Preferences for redistribution and exposure to tax-benefit schemes in Europe," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    5. Sonja Settele, 2019. "How Do Beliefs about the Gender Wage Gap Affect the Demand for Public Policy?," CEBI working paper series 19-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. The Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI).
    6. Keefer, Philip & Scartascini, Carlos & Vlaicu, Razvan, 2022. "Demand-side determinants of public spending allocations: Voter trust, risk and time preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 206(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    government debt; political attitudes; beliefs; expectations; information;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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