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The Effects of Fiscal Stimulus: Evidence from the 2009 'Cash for Clunkers' Program

  • Atif Mian
  • Amir Sufi

A key rationale for fiscal stimulus is to boost consumption when aggregate demand is perceived to be inefficiently low. We examine the ability of the government to increase consumption by evaluating the impact of the 2009 "Cash for Clunkers" program on short and medium run auto purchases. Our empirical strategy exploits variation across U.S. cities in ex-ante exposure to the program as measured by the number of "clunkers" in the city as of the summer of 2008. We find that the program induced the purchase of an additional 360,000 cars in July and August of 2009. However, almost all of the additional purchases under the program were pulled forward from the very near future; the effect of the program on auto purchases is almost completely reversed by as early as March 2010 - only seven months after the program ended. The effect of the program on auto purchases was significantly more short-lived than previously suggested. We also find no evidence of an effect on employment, house prices, or household default rates in cities with higher exposure to the program.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16351.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2012. "The Effects of Fiscal Stimulus: Evidence from the 2009 Cash for Clunkers Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1107-1142.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16351
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Ogaki, Masao & Reinhart, Carmen M., 1998. "Intertemporal substitution and durable goods: long-run data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 85-90, October.
  2. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
  3. Woodford, Michael, 2010. "Simple Analytics of the Government Expenditure Multiplier," CEPR Discussion Papers 7704, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Atif R. Mian & Amir Sufi, 2010. "Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009," NBER Working Papers 15896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan A. Parker, 2011. "Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008," 2011 Meeting Papers 254, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. David S. Johnson & Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2004. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," NBER Working Papers 10784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daniel J. Wilson, 2010. "Fiscal spending multipliers: evidence from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," Working Paper Series 2010-17, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  10. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2009. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1449-1496, November.
  11. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 2010. "When is the government spending multiplier large?," FRB Atlanta CQER Working Paper 2010-01, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  12. Alan J. Auerbach & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2012. "Measuring the Output Responses to Fiscal Policy," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 1-27, May.
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