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Fiscal Policy as a Stabilization Tool

  • Fatás, Antonio
  • Mihov, Ilian

We analyze empirically the cyclical behavior of fiscal policy among a group of 23 OECD countries. We introduce a framework to capture fiscal policy stance in a way that brings together automatic stabilizers and discretionary fiscal policy. We show that, for most countries, automatic changes in the budget balance play a stronger role in stabilizing output than discretionary fiscal policy. When compared across countries, changes in fiscal policy stance are predominantly linked to differences in government size. Tax revenues are close to being proportional to GDP and, combined with a relatively stable government spending, this leads to a countercyclical budget balance, which in turn helps stabilize aggregate demand. Furthermore, countries with less responsive automatic stabilizers, like the United States, tend to use countercyclical discretionary fiscal policy more aggressively. For all countries discretionary policy has become more aggressive in recent decades.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8749.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8749
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  1. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Optimal fiscal policy in a business cycle model," Staff Report 160, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Philip R. Lane, 2002. "The Cyclical Behaviour of Fiscal Policy: Evidence from the OECD," Trinity Economics Papers 20022, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
  3. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela & Vegh, Carlos, 2004. "When it rains, it pours: Procyclical capital flows and macroeconomic policies," MPRA Paper 13883, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe & Martin Uribe, 2003. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy Under Imperfect Competition," NBER Working Papers 10149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Philippe Aghion & Ioana Marinescu, 2008. "Cyclical Budgetary Policy and Economic Growth: What Do We Learn from OECD Panel Data?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2007, Volume 22, pages 251-278 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Schmitt-Grohe, Stephanie & Uribe, Martin, 2004. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy under sticky prices," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 114(2), pages 198-230, February.
  7. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Valerie A. Ramey, 2011. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's all in the Timing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 1-50.
  9. Olivier Blanchard & Jordi Galí, 2010. "Labor Markets and Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Model with Unemployment," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 1-30, April.
  10. Jaejoon Woo, 2009. "Why Do More Polarized Countries Run More Procyclical Fiscal Policy?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 850-870, November.
  11. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1329-1368.
  12. Philip Lane, 2010. "International Differences in Fiscal Policy During the Global Crisis," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp336, IIIS.
  13. Darrel Cohen & Glenn Follette, 2000. "The automatic fiscal stabilizers: quietly doing their thing," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Apr, pages 35-67.
  14. Galí, Jordi & Perotti, Roberto, 2003. "Fiscal Policy and Monetary Integration in Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 3933, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. John B. Taylor, 2000. "Reassessing Discretionary Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 21-36, Summer.
  16. Antonio Fatás & Ilian Mihov, 2009. "Why Fiscal Stimulus is Likely to Work," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(1), pages 57-73, 05.
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