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Understanding the Size of the Government Spending Multiplier: It's in the Sign

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  • Barnichon, Régis
  • Matthes, Christian

Abstract

Despite intense scrutiny, estimates of the government spending multiplier remain highly uncertain, with values ranging from 0.5 to 2. While an increase in government spending is generally assumed to have the same (mirror-image) effect as a decrease in government spending, we show that relaxing this assumption is important to understand the effects of fiscal policy. Regardless of whether we identify government spending shocks from (i) a narrative approach, or (ii) a timing restriction, we find that the contractionary multiplier --the multiplier associated with a negative shock to government spending-- is above 1, while the expansionary multiplier --the multiplier associated with a positive shock-- is substantially below 1. The multiplier is largest in recessions, as found in previous studies, but only because the contractionary multiplier is largest in recessions. The expansionary multiplier is always below 1 and not larger in recessions. We argue that our results help understand the wide range of multiplier estimates found in the literature.

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  • Barnichon, Régis & Matthes, Christian, 2016. "Understanding the Size of the Government Spending Multiplier: It's in the Sign," CEPR Discussion Papers 11373, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11373
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    1. Alberto Alesina & Gualtiero Azzalini & Carlo Favero & Francesco Giavazzi & Armando Miano, 2018. "Is it the “How” or the “When” that Matters in Fiscal Adjustments?," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 66(1), pages 144-188, March.
    2. Luca Brugnolini, 2018. "About Local Projection Impulse Response Function Reliability," CEIS Research Paper 440, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 09 Jun 2018.
    3. Biolsi, Christopher, 2017. "Nonlinear effects of fiscal policy over the business cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 54-87.
    4. van der Wielen, Wouter, 2020. "The macroeconomic effects of tax changes: Evidence using real-time data for the European Union," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 302-321.
    5. Cem Cebi & K. Azim Ozdemir, 2016. "Cyclical Variation of Fiscal Multiplier in Turkey," Working Papers 1619, Research and Monetary Policy Department, Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.
    6. Sanz, Carlos & Gonzalo Muñoz, Jesus & Alloza, Mario, 2019. "Dynamic Effects of Persistent Shocks," UC3M Working papers. Economics 29187, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    7. Sangyup Choi & Junhyeok Shin, 2020. "Household Indebtedness and the Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes," Working papers 2020rwp-178, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.
    8. Diniz, André, 2016. "Effects of fiscal consolidations in Latin America," Textos para discussão 423, FGV EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil).
    9. Timo Wollmershäuser & Silvia Delrio & Marcell Göttert & Christian Grimme & Jochen Güntner & Carla Krolage & Stefan Lautenbacher & Robert Lehmann & Sebastian Link & Wolfgang Nierhaus & Magnus Reif & Ra, 2018. "ifo Konjunkturprognose Sommer 2018: Gewitterwolken am deutschen Konjunkturhimmel," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 71(12), pages 33-87, June.
    10. Alloza, Mario & Burriel, Pablo & Pérez, Javier J., 2019. "Fiscal policies in the euro area: Revisiting the size of spillovers," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1-1.
    11. Cardi, Olivier & Restout, Romain & Claeys, Peter, 2020. "Imperfect mobility of labor across sectors and fiscal transmission," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 111(C).
    12. Komarek, Timothy M. & Wagner, Gary A., 2020. "The distributional effects of job loss from fiscal consolidation: Evidence from the Budget Control Act of 2011," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 196(C).
    13. Yoon J. Jo & Sarah Zubairy, 2021. "State dependent government spending multipliers: Downward nominal wage rigidity and sources of business cycle fluctuations," Working Papers 20210127-001, Texas A&M University, Department of Economics.
    14. Maria Elkhdari & Moez Souissi & Andrew Jewell, 2018. "Empirical Estimation of Fiscal Multipliers in MENA Oil-Exporting Countries with an Application to Algeria," IMF Working Papers 2018/124, International Monetary Fund.
    15. Cem Çebi & K.Azim Özdemir, 2021. "Cyclical variation of the fiscal multiplier in Turkey," Emerging Markets Finance and Trade, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 57(2), pages 495-509, January.

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    JEL classification:

    • C32 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes; State Space Models
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy

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