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Debt and the Effects of Fiscal Policy

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  • Carlo Favero
  • Francesco Giavazzi

Abstract

A shift in taxes or in government spending (a "fiscal shock") at some point in time puts a constraint on the path of taxes and spending in the future, since the government intertemporal budget constraint will eventually have to be met. This simple fact is surprisingly overlooked in analyses of the effects of fiscal policy based on Vector AutoRegressive models. We study the effects of fiscal shocks keeping track of the debt dynamics that arises following a fiscal shock, and allowing for the possibility that taxes, spending and interest rates might respond to the level of the debt, as it evolves over time. We show that omitting a debt feedback can result in incorrect estimates of the dynamic effects of fiscal shocks. In particular, the absence of an effect of fiscal shocks on long-term interest rates -- a frequent finding in studies that omit a debt feedback -- can be explained by their mis-specification. Using data for the U.S. economy and two alternative identification assumptions we reconsider the effects of fiscal policy shocks correcting for these shortcomings.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlo Favero & Francesco Giavazzi, 2007. "Debt and the Effects of Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 12822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12822
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    1. Roberto Perotti, 2008. "In Search of the Transmission Mechanism of Fiscal Policy," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2007, Volume 22, pages 169-226 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Wendy Edelberg & Martin Eichenbaum & Jonas D.M. Fisher, 1999. "Understanding the Effects of a Shock to Government Purchases," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(1), pages 166-206, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Burnside, Craig & Eichenbaum, Martin & Fisher, Jonas D. M., 2004. "Fiscal shocks and their consequences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 89-117, March.
    5. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior of U. S. Public Debt and Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963.
    6. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 121-184 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Chari, V.V. & Kehoe, Patrick J. & McGrattan, Ellen R., 2008. "Are structural VARs with long-run restrictions useful in developing business cycle theory?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1337-1352, November.
    8. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 2002. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1329-1368.
    9. Bagliano, Fabio C. & Favero, Carlo A., 1999. "Information from financial markets and VAR measures of monetary policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 825-837, April.
    10. Giavazzi, Francesco & Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 2000. "Searching for non-linear effects of fiscal policy: Evidence from industrial and developing countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(7), pages 1259-1289, June.
    11. Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General

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