IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Federal, State, and Local Governments: Evaluating Their Separate Roles in U.S. Growth

  • Matthew J. Higgins
  • Daniel Levy
  • Andrew T. Young

We use U.S. county level data (3,058 observations) from 1970 to 1998 to explore the relationship between economic growth and the extent of government employment at three levels: federal, state and local. We find that increases in federal, state, and local government employments are all negatively associated with economic growth. We find no evidence that government is more efficient at more decentralized levels and thus reject Oates' (1972) "decentralization theorem." Furthermore, while we cannot separate out the productive and redistributive services of government, we document that the county-level income distribution became slightly wider from 1970 to 1998. For those who justify government activities in terms of equity concerns - perhaps even trading off economic growth for equity - the burden falls on them to show that the income distribution would have widened significantly more in the absence of government activities. We conclude that a release of government-employed labor inputs to the private sector would be growth-enhancing.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta) in its series Emory Economics with number 0801.

in new window

Date of creation: Feb 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0801
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. John Shea, 1997. "Instrument Relevance in Multivariate Linear Models: A Simple Measure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(2), pages 348-352, May.
  2. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2002. "Instrumental variables and GMM: Estimation and testing," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 545, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 14 Feb 2003.
  3. Higgins, Matthew & Young, Andrew & Levy, Daniel, 2007. "Robust Correlates of County-Level Growth in the U.S," MPRA Paper 3088, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Matthew J. Higgins & Daniel Levy & Andrew T. Young, 2005. "Growth and Convergence across the US: Evidence from County-Level Data," Working Papers 2005-06, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  5. Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 2001. "Fiscal decentralization, public spending, and economic growth in China," CEMA Working Papers 58, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  6. Agell, Jonas & Lindh, Thomas & Ohlsson, Henry, 1997. "Growth and the public sector: A critical review essay," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 33-52, February.
  7. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2001. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262232197, June.
  8. Jordan Rappaport, 1999. "Local Growth Empirics," CID Working Papers 23, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  9. Jordan M. Rappaport, 2000. "How Does Labor Mobility Affect Income Convergence?," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0124, Econometric Society.
  10. Teresa Garcia-Milà & Therese J. McGuire & Robert H. Porter, 1993. "The effect of public capital in state-level production functions reconsidered," Economics Working Papers 36, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  11. repec:chb:bcchwp:03 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge & McNab, Robert M., 2003. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 1597-1616, September.
  13. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1994. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," NBER Technical Working Papers 0151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas, 1994. "Public-Sector Capital and the Productivity Puzzle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(1), pages 12-21, February.
  15. Naoko C. Kojo & Arye L. Hillman & Emanuele Baldacci, 2003. "Growth, Governance, and Fiscal Policy Transmission Channels in Low-Income Countries," IMF Working Papers 03/237, International Monetary Fund.
  16. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1995. "The Welfare State and Economic Performance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(2), pages 171-98, June.
  17. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1997. "I just ran four million regressions," Economics Working Papers 201, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  18. Caselli, Francesco & Esquivel, Gerardo & Lefort, Fernando, 1996. " Reopening the Convergence Debate: A New Look at Cross-Country Growth Empirics," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 363-89, September.
  19. Lynde, Catherine & Richmond, J, 1993. "Public Capital and Total Factor Productivity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 401-14, May.
  20. Jan K. Brueckner, 2005. "Fiscal Federalism and Economic Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 1601, CESifo Group Munich.
  21. Shioji, Etsuro, 2001. " Public Capital and Economic Growth: A Convergence Approach," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 205-27, September.
  22. Josep Lluís Carrion-i-Silvestre & Marta Espasa & Toni Mora, 2008. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth in Spain," Public Finance Review, , vol. 36(2), pages 194-218, March.
  23. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  24. Rappaport, Jordan & Sachs, Jeffrey D, 2003. " The United States as a Coastal Nation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-46, March.
  25. Xie, Danyang & Zou, Heng-fu & Davoodi, Hamid, 1999. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth in the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 228-239, March.
  26. Davoodi, Hamid & Zou, Heng-fu, 1998. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth: A Cross-Country Study," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 244-257, March.
  27. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. David Aschauer, 1988. "Is public expenditure productive?," Staff Memoranda 88-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  29. Stansel, Dean, 2005. "Local decentralization and local economic growth: A cross-sectional examination of US metropolitan areas," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 55-72, January.
  30. Evans, Paul & Karras, Georgios, 1994. "Are Government Activities Productive? Evidence from a Panel of U.S. States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(1), pages 1-11, February.
  31. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "Involvement, Prosperity, and Economic Growth?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 373-431.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0801. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sue Mialon)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.