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Social Spending, Inequality and Growth in Times of Austerity: Insights from Portugal

Author

Listed:
  • Marta C. N. Simões

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, and GEMF, Portugal)

  • Adelaide P. S. Duarte

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, and GEMF, Portugal)

  • João Sousa Andrade

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, and GEMF, Portugal)

Abstract

This paper discusses the possibility that the austerity measures implemented in Portugal, that translate into a reduction of the respective welfare state, can not only hamper short term economic recovery but also compromise long-run macroeconomic performance, based on their impact on income inequality. We estimate a near-VAR model with social spending, inequality and output and perform impulse response analysis over the period 1980-2013 to investigate whether the recent expansion of the Portuguese welfare state constituted an obstacle or an opportunity for this country’s macroeconomic performance. Our results point to social spending as an expansionary fiscal policy instrument that can alleviate the downturn in output in the short-term. The long-term role of social spending is less clear due to its ambiguous effect on overall income inequality. We conclude that more important than the insufficient increase in social benefits due to fiscal consolidation efforts seems to be the need to carefully target social support so that there is no equity-efficiency trade-off.

Suggested Citation

  • Marta C. N. Simões & Adelaide P. S. Duarte & João Sousa Andrade, 2015. "Social Spending, Inequality and Growth in Times of Austerity: Insights from Portugal," GEMF Working Papers 2015-16, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
  • Handle: RePEc:gmf:wpaper:2015-16.
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Sarah Voitchovsky, 2005. "Does the Profile of Income Inequality Matter for Economic Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 273-296, September.
    2. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality and the Process of Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1001-1026.
    3. Atkinson, A. B., 1995. "Is the Welfare State necessarily an obstacle to economic growth?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 723-730, April.
    4. Castellacci, Fulvio & Natera, Jose Miguel, 2011. "A new panel dataset for cross-country analyses of national systems, growth and development (CANA)," MPRA Paper 28376, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Niehues, Judith, 2010. "Social Spending Generosity and Income Inequality: A Dynamic Panel Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 5178, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Cecilia Garcia-Penalosa & Eve Caroli & Philippe Aghion, 1999. "Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1615-1660, December.
    7. Afonso, António & Furceri, Davide, 2010. "Government size, composition, volatility and economic growth," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 517-532, December.
    8. Davide Furceri & Aleksandra Zdzienicka, 2012. "The Effects of Social Spending on Economic Activity: Empirical Evidence from a Panel of OECD Countries," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 33(1), pages 129-152, March.
    9. Godfrey, Leslie G, 1978. "Testing against General Autoregressive and Moving Average Error Models When the Regressors Include Lagged Dependent Variables," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1293-1301, November.
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    11. Pfaff, Bernhard, 2008. "VAR, SVAR and SVEC Models: Implementation Within R Package vars," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 27(i04).
    12. Emanuele Baldacci & Larry Q Cui & Benedict J. Clements & Sanjeev Gupta, 2004. "Social Spending, Human Capital, and Growth in Developing Countries; Implications for Achieving the MDGs," IMF Working Papers 04/217, International Monetary Fund.
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    15. Judith Niehues, 2010. "Social Spending Generosity and Income Inequality: A Dynamic Panel Approach," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 336, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    social spending; inequality; economic growth; Portugal; VAR.;

    JEL classification:

    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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