IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth

  • Robert J. Barro
  • Xavier Sala-i-Martin

The recent literature on endogenous economic growth allows for effects of fiscal policy on long-term growth. If the social rate of return on investment exceeds the private return, then tax policies that encourage investment can raise the growth rate and levels of utility. An excess of the social return over the private return can reflect learning-by-doing with spillover effects, the financing of government consumption purchases with an income tax, and monopoly pricing of new types of capital goods. Tax incentives for investment are not called for if the private rate of return on investment equals the social return. This situation applies in growth models if the accumulation of a broad concept of capital does not entail diminishing returns, or if technological progress appears as an expanding variety of consumer products. In growth models that incorporate public services, the optimal tax policy hinges on the characteristics of the services. If the public services are publicly-provided private goods, which are rival and excludable, or publiclyprovided public goods, which are non-rival and non-excludable, then lump-sum taxation is superior to income taxation. Many types of public goods are subject to congestion, and are therefore rival but to some extent nonexcludable. In these cases, income taxation works approximately as a user fee and can therefore be superior to lump-sum taxation. In particular, the incentives for investment and growth are too high if taxes are lump sum. We argue that the congestion model applies to a wide array of public expenditures, including transportation facilities, public utilities, courts, and possibly national defense and police.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3362.

in new window

Date of creation: May 1990
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as "Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth", Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 59, no. 201 (1992): 645-662.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3362
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Sergio T. Rebelo, 1990. "Long Run Policy Analysis and Long Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 3325, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1990. "Comparative Advantage and Long-run Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 796-815, September.
  3. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  4. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  5. King, R.G. & Rebelo, S.T., 1989. "Transitional Dynamics And Economic Growth In The Neoclassical Model," RCER Working Papers 206, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  6. Abel, Andrew B & Blanchard, Olivier J, 1983. "An Intertemporal Model of Saving and Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(3), pages 675-92, May.
  7. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  8. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  9. Judd, Kenneth L, 1985. "On the Performance of Patents," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(3), pages 567-85, May.
  10. Thompson, Earl A, 1974. "Taxation and National Defense," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 755-82, July/Aug..
  11. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1963. "On the Concept of Optimal Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 163, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3362. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.