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Macroeconomic Effects from Government Purchases and Taxes

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  • Robert J. Barro
  • Charles J. Redlick

Abstract

For U.S. annual data that include WWII, the estimated multiplier for temporary defense spending is 0.4-0.5 contemporaneously and 0.6-0.7 over two years. If the change in defense spending is "permanent" (gauged by Ramey's defense-news variable), the multipliers are higher by 0.1-0.2. The estimated multipliers are all significantly less than one and apply for given average marginal income-tax rates. We cannot estimate reliable multipliers for non-defense purchases because of the lack of good instruments. Since the defense-spending multipliers are less than one, greater spending crowds out other components of GDP, mainly investment, but also non-defense government purchases and net exports. Consumer expenditure on non-durables and services has only a small response. In a post-1950 sample, increases in average marginal income-tax rates (measured by a newly constructed time series) have significantly negative effects on GDP. When interpreted as a tax multiplier, the magnitude is around 1.1. When we hold constant marginal tax rates, we find no statistically significant effects on GDP from changes in federal tax revenue (using the Romer-Romer exogenous federal tax-revenue change as an instrument). In contrast, with revenue held constant, increases in marginal tax rates still have a statistically significant negative effect on GDP. Therefore, tax changes seem to affect GDP mainly through substitution effects, rather than wealth effects. The combination of the estimated spending and tax multipliers implies that balanced-budget multipliers for defense spending are negative.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Barro & Charles J. Redlick, 2009. "Macroeconomic Effects from Government Purchases and Taxes," NBER Working Papers 15369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15369 Note: EFG ME PE
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    1. Barro, Robert J & Sahasakul, Chaipat, 1986. "Average Marginal Tax Rates from Social Security and the Individual Income Tax," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 555-566, October.
    2. Barro, Robert J & Sahasakul, Chaipat, 1983. "Measuring the Average Marginal Tax Rate from the Individual Income Tax," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(4), pages 419-452, October.
    3. Barro, Robert J, 1981. "Output Effects of Government Purchases," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1086-1121, December.
    4. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-971, October.
    5. 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.
    6. Ramey, Valerie A. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 1998. "Costly capital reallocation and the effects of government spending," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 145-194, June.
    7. S. Rao Aiyagari & Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 2002. "Optimal Taxation without State-Contingent Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1220-1254, December.
    8. Rotemberg, Julio J & Woodford, Michael, 1992. "Oligopolistic Pricing and the Effects of Aggregate Demand on Economic Activity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1153-1207, December.
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    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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