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Government Spending Multipliers in Good Times and in Bad: Evidence from U.S. Historical Data

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  • Valerie A. Ramey
  • Sarah Zubairy

Abstract

This paper investigates whether U.S. government spending multipliers differ according to two potentially important features of the economy: (1) the amount of slack and (2) whether interest rates are near the zero lower bound. We shed light on these questions by analyzing new quarterly historical U.S. data covering multiple large wars and deep recessions. We estimate a state-dependent model in which impulse responses and multipliers depend on the average dynamics of the economy in each state. We find no evidence that multipliers differ by the amount of slack in the economy. These results are robust to many alternative specifications. The results are less clear for the zero lower bound. For the entire sample, there is no evidence of elevated multipliers near the zero lower bound. When World War II is excluded, some point estimates suggest higher multipliers during the zero lower bound state, but they are not statistically different from the normal state. Our results imply that, contrary to recent conjecture, government spending multipliers were not necessarily higher than average during the Great Recession.

Suggested Citation

  • Valerie A. Ramey & Sarah Zubairy, 2014. "Government Spending Multipliers in Good Times and in Bad: Evidence from U.S. Historical Data," NBER Working Papers 20719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20719
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    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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