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Debt and the Effects of Fiscal Policy

  • Favero, Carlo A.
  • Giavazzi, Francesco

A shift in taxes or in government spending (a ”fiscal shock”) at some point in time puts a constraint on the path of taxes and spending in the future, since the government intertemporal budget constraint will eventually have to be met. This simple fact is surprisingly overlooked in analyses of the effects of fiscal policy based on Vector AutoRegressive models. We study the effects of fiscal shocks keeping track of the debt dynamics that arises following a fiscal shock, and allowing for the possibility that taxes, spending and interest rates might respond to the level of the debt, as it evolves over time. We show that omitting a debt feedback can result in incorrect estimates of the dynamic effects of fiscal shocks. In particular, the absence of an effect of fiscal shocks on long-term interest rates—a frequent finding in studies that omit a debt feedback—can be explained by their mis-specification. Using data for the U.S. economy and two alternative identification assumptions we reconsider the effects of fiscal policy shocks correcting for these shortcomings.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6092.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6092
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  1. Wendy Edelberg & Martin Eichenbaum & Jonas D.M. Fisher, 1999. "Understanding the Effects of a Shock to Government Purchases," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(1), pages 166-206, January.
  2. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2007. "Are structural VARs with long-run restrictions useful in developing business cycle theory?," Staff Report 364, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Giavazzi, Francesco & Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 2000. "Searching for Non-Linear Effects of Fiscal Policy: Evidence from Industrial and Developing Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 2374, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Christina D. Romer and David H. Romer., 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," Economics Working Papers 89-107, University of California at Berkeley.
  5. Roberto Perotti, 2007. "In Search of the Transmission Mechanism of Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 13143, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 2002. "An Empirical Characterization Of The Dynamic Effects Of Changes In Government Spending And Taxes On Output," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1329-1368, November.
  7. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Jonas Fisher, 2003. "Fiscal Shocks and Their Consequences," NBER Working Papers 9772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Fabio C. Bagliano & Carlo A. Favero, . "Information from financial markets and VAR measures of monetary policy," Working Papers 135, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  9. Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  11. Valerie A. Ramey, 2009. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's All in the Timing," NBER Working Papers 15464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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