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Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth

  • Robert J. Barro

I extend existing models of endogenous economic growth to incorporate a government sector. Production involves private capital (broadly defined) and public services. There is constant returns to scale in the two factors, but diminishing returns to each separately. Public services are financed by a flat- rate income tax. The economy's growth rate and saving rate initially rise with the ratio of productive government expenditures to CNP, g/y, but each rate eventually reaches a peak and subsequently declines. If the production function is Cobb-Douglas with an exponent o for public services, then the value g/y = a maximizes the growth rate, and also maximizes the utility attained by the representative consumer. The distortion from the income tax implies that the decentralized equilibrium is not Pareto optimal; in particular, the growth and saving rates are too low from a social perspective. In a command optimum, growth and saving rates are higher, but g/y = a turns out still to be the best choice for the size of government. The command optimum can be sustained by picking the expenditure ratio, g/y = a, and then financing this spending by lump sum taxes. If the share of productive spending, g/y, were chosen randomly, then the model would predict a non-monotonic relation between g/y and the economy's long- term growth and saving rates. However, for optimizing governments, the model predicts an inverse association between g/y and the rates of growth and saving.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2588.

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Date of creation: May 1988
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, No. 5, Pt. 2, pp. S103-S125, (October 1990).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2588
Note: EFG
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  1. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2232, David K. Levine.
  2. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1963. "On the Concept of Optimal Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 163, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. David Aschauer, 1988. "Is public expenditure productive?," Staff Memoranda 88-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1986. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," NBER Working Papers 1793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sergio Rebelo, 1999. "Long Run Policy Analysis and Long Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2114, David K. Levine.
  6. Grier, Kevin B. & Tullock, Gordon, 1989. "An empirical analysis of cross-national economic growth, 1951-1980," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 259-276, September.
  7. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  8. Kormendi, Roger C. & Meguire, Philip G., 1985. "Macroeconomic determinants of growth: Cross-country evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 141-163, September.
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