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Are government spending multipliers greater during periods of slack? evidence from 20th century historical data

  • Michael T. Owyang
  • Valerie A. Ramey
  • Sarah Zubairy

A key question that has arisen during recent debates is whether government spending multipliers are larger during times when resources are idle. This paper seeks to shed light on this question by analyzing new quarterly historical data covering multiple large wars and depressions in the U.S. and Canada. Using an extension of Ramey’s (2011) military news series and Jordà’s (2005) method for estimating impulse responses, we find no evidence that multipliers are greater during periods of high unemployment in the U.S. In every case, the estimated multipliers are below unity. We do find some evidence of higher multipliers during periods of slack in Canada, with some multipliers above unity.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2013-004.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2013-004
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  1. Òscar Jordà, 2005. "Estimation and Inference of Impulse Responses by Local Projections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 161-182, March.
  2. Robert J. Gordon & Robert Krenn, 2010. "The End of the Great Depression 1939-41: Policy Contributions and Fiscal Multipliers," NBER Working Papers 16380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan J. Auerbach & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2010. "Measuring the Output Responses to Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 16311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Alan J. Auerbach & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2011. "Fiscal Multipliers in Recession and Expansion," NBER Working Papers 17447, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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