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The Time for Austerity: Estimating the Average Treatment Effect of Fiscal Policy

  • Òscar Jordà
  • Alan M. Taylor

After the Global Financial Crisis a controversial rush to fiscal austerity followed in many countries. Yet research on the effects of austerity on macroeconomic aggregates was and still is unsettled, mired by the difficulty of identifying multipliers from observational data. This paper reconciles seemingly disparate estimates of multipliers within a unified and state-contingent framework. We achieve identification of causal effects with new propensity-score based methods for time series data. Using this novel approach, we show that austerity is always a drag on growth, and especially so in depressed economies: a one percent of GDP fiscal consolidation translates into 4 percent lower real GDP after five years when implemented in the slump rather than the boom. We illustrate our findings with a counterfactual evaluation of the impact of the U.K. government's shift to austerity policies in 2010 on subsequent growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19414.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19414
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  29. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Michael T. Owyang & Valerie A. Ramey & Sarah Zubairy, 2013. "Are Government Spending Multipliers Greater during Periods of Slack? Evidence from Twentieth-Century Historical Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 129-34, May.
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