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Automatic Fiscal Stabilisers: What they are and what they do

  • Jan in't Veld
  • Martin Larch
  • Marieke Vandeweyer

The global financial and economic crisis has revived the debate in the academic literature and in policy circles about the size and effectiveness of automatic fiscal stabilisers. Especially in the euro area where monetary policy is centralised and discretionary fiscal policy making is constrained by the EU fiscal rules, knowing the size and the effectiveness of automatic stabilisers is crucial. While automatic stabilisers are a fairly established concept in the fiscal policy literature, there is still no consensus about their actual nature and their effectiveness. This paper shows that differences in opinion mirror a deeper disagreement over how the budget would look like without automatic stabilisers. This issue is addressed by defining two types of counterfactual budgets giving rise to two different interpretations about the nature of automatic stabilisation. Simulations with a structural model confirm that the degree of smoothing is conditional on how the counterfactual budget, i.e. the budget without automatic stabilisers, is defined.

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Paper provided by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfswetenschappen, Vives in its series Vives discussion paper series with number 29.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ete:vivwps:29
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  1. Anne Brunila & Marco Buti & Jan In 'T Veld, 2003. "Fiscal Policy in Europe: How Effective Are Automatic Stabilisers?," Empirica, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 1-24, March.
  2. Andrew Mountford & Harald Uhlig, 2005. "What are the Effects of Fiscal Policy Shocks?," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-039, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
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  8. Fatas, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "Government size and automatic stabilizers: international and intranational evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 3-28, October.
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  11. Glenn Follette & Byron Lutz, 2010. "Fiscal policy in the United States: automatic stabilizers, discretionary fiscal policy actions, and the economy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-43, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Rodrik, Dani, 1996. "Why do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1388, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Ratto, Marco & Roeger, Werner & Veld, Jan in 't, 2009. "QUEST III: An estimated open-economy DSGE model of the euro area with fiscal and monetary policy," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 222-233, January.
  14. Julia Darby & Jacques Melitz, 2008. "Social spending and automatic stabilizers in the OECD," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 715-756, October.
  15. António Afonso & Luca Agnello & Davide Furceri, 2010. "Fiscal policy responsiveness, persistence, and discretion," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 503-530, December.
  16. Ray Barrell & Ian Hurst & Álvaro Pina, 2002. "Fiscal Targets, Automatic Stabilisers and their Effects on Output," Working Papers Department of Economics 2002/05, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  17. John B. Taylor, 2009. "The Lack of an Empirical Rationale for a Revival of Discretionary Fiscal Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 550-55, May.
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