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The Behavior of U.S. Deficits

  • Robert J. Barro

The tax-smoothing theory suggests that deficits would respond particularly to recession, temporarily high government spending, and anticipated inflation. My empirical estimates indicate that a relation of this type is reasonably stable in the U.S. since at least 1920. In particular, the statistical evidence does not support the idea that there has been a shift toward a fiscal policy that generates either more real public debt on average or that generates larger deficits in response to recessions. Further, the deficits for 1982-83 and projections for 1984 are consistent with the previous structure. The high values of these deficits reflect the customary response to substantial recession (interacting with big government) and to expected inflation.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State in its series University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State with number 32.

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Date of creation: 1984
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:32
Contact details of provider: Postal: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, CENTER FOR STUDY OF THE ECONOMY AND THE STATE, 1101 E. 58TH STREET CHICAGO ILLINOIS 60637.
Web page: http://research.chicagobooth.edu/economy/

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  1. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  2. Finn Kydland & Edward C. Prescott, 1980. "A Competitive Theory of Fluctuations and the Feasibility and Desirability of Stabilization Policy," NBER Chapters, in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 169-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Butkiewicz, James L., 1983. "The market value of outstanding government debt : Comment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 373-379.
  4. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
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